A BROTHER and sister fleeced an elderly dementia sufferer of £1,260 for removing a single bush from her garden.

But George William Thompson and Eileen Ward paid the price for their greed when they tried to milk more money from their confused victim.

Thanks to the vigilance of a bank counter assistant Thompson and Ward were unable to get their hands on further cash and were soon arrested after police were alerted.

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Durham Crown Court heard that the siblings, from Darlington, were pulled over in a van, in the back of which was found their elderly victim and the money they had already conned from her, hidden in the only bush they had removed from her garden.

Ward, 26, and her 29-year-old brother now face receiving “substantial” prison sentences when they return to court next month after each admitted a charge of fraud.

Richard Bennett, prosecuting, told the court: “It’s a familiarly depressing case involving the deliberate targeting of an elderly lady with dementia, with two determined attempts to take money from her.”

Mr Bennett said the "work" appeared to involve the removal of only a single bush from the garden at her home, just off the A1(M) in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, before then taking her to a bank to withdraw money to make the payment.

“They successfully got £1,260 out of the bank the first time, but, not satisfied with that, they went to another bank and fortunately the teller was alert and suspicious with a confused elderly lady coming to the counter asking for a large sum of money.

“The bank employee was alive to the risk and alerted police, who soon examined cctv in the vicinity.”

Mr Bennett said Ward and Thompson were seen leaving in a van with a ticket for illegally parking outside the bank, in Sunderland, as they headed back to County Durham.

“They were found back in the Durham area with the lady in the van, confused at what was happening.

“A search of the van revealed the cash in the bush cut from the property.

“The work carried out at the house was incompetent and even on Thompson’s account was probably worth about £75.”

The court was told that at least one of Ward’s previous offences involved an elderly victim, and, as a result, she spent three months in custody following her arrest for the latest incident, which dates from March last year.

Robert Smith, for Ward, told the court that the case was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service, but proceedings were revived after a review by its London office, following an appeal against the decision by the victim’s family.

Mr Smith said Ward has since remained out of trouble and has always turned up at court, when requested.

Shaun Dryden, for Thompson, said his previous offence dated from 2008 and involved the theft of a caravan.

Both Mr Dryden and Mr Smith asked for sentence to be adjourned pending preparation of background report on the defendants by the Probation Service.

Judge Christopher Prince, who said he had considered remanding the pair in custody, agreed to bail them prior to sentence.

But it is on condition that Ward lives at an address in Throstlesnest Avenue, and Thompson in Grainger Street, both Darlington, each subject to electronically-monitored 6am - 6pm home curfews.

He told the pair: “When you return here you should expect to receive substantial custodial sentences in both your cases.”

The judge also said the vigilant bank assistant should be commended for their actions.

Ward and Thompson will be sentenced on September 5.