A FORMER councillor who stole £46,000 from a profoundly deaf and near-blind man in his 90s has been jailed for two and a half years.

Stephanie Todd, 57, a former UKIP councillor on Richmondshire District Council, targeted vulnerable Mr Wall, took control of his bank card and changed his will to make herself the main beneficiary, the court heard.

The Northern Echo:

JAILED: Stephanie Todd has been jailed for theft Picture: GLEN MINIKIN

Mr Wall, who did not realise Todd was withdrawing amounts of up to £300 every few days, died earlier this year aged 98, just a few months after she was convicted.

In total she plundered the former telecoms worker and war veteran’s bank account to the tune of £46,000.

Judge Stephen Ashurst told her: “You were a forceful woman in your 50s who exploited that position to take over an old man. 

“Mr Wall was told in January that you had been convicted. He trusted you and felt betrayed. 

“He remained constantly anxious from the time the police came to see him. He was 98 and said the impact of this had marred his final years. 

“I have no doubt he was speaking from the heart. The serious impact of this on that man in his last few weeks must have been very serious indeed. 

"You targeted him because of his obvious vulnerability.”

Todd met her victim by chance when she said he appeared confused and she began to help him, Teesside Crown Court was told.

But within months she knew all about his money and legal affairs and that his solicitor Lisa Potts at Richmond firm Hunton and Garget had control over his financial affairs through lasting powers of attorney.

Todd attempted to change law firms and appoint herself as guardian of Mr Wall’s financial affairs, but the forms were never sent off.

Todd, of Shute Road, Catterick Garrison, also encouraged him to change his will with another local firm. Previously he had pledged his house and contents to the Cats Protection League, his wife’s dying wish, but Todd changed it to make herself the main beneficiary.

In the meantime Ms Potts and her colleague Claire Richardson became suspicious and visited Mr Wall at home to speak to him and try to find out his wishes. 
There they recorded the conversation and gathered that Mr Wall had formed the highly mistaken opinion that a neighbour and former nurse, who had previously helped him and cooked his meals, was attempting to poison him. 

Instead he became reliant on Todd to act as his ‘interpreter’. She had also wrongly suggested to him that his solicitor Ms Potts was overcharging him for her services.

Todd, who once represented Hipswell for UKIP on the council, had denied theft and pressuring Mr Wall, who was of sound mind despite his vulnerability, to change his will.

Her sentencing was delayed after she suffered a stroke during the trial at the end of last year.

Her argument was that she had merely cared for him and withdrew money with his consent to buy things for him.

However, Judge Ashurst said while he was not a born Yorkshireman, Mr Wall had nevertheless lived “very frugally” until Todd took over his bank cards. Cash withdrawals were made as far away as Oxford.

When she was arrested at her home in June 2016 police found bank statements, diverted from his previous solicitors, and the pensioner’s debit card.

Mr Wall was interviewed by police – and while he was ‘very confused’ for parts of the interview he told police he believed Todd had been buying his shopping out of her own money.

Prosecuting, Shaun Dryden said: “He thought she was helping him so much he should leave some money to her out of his estate. 

“He didn’t realise how much she was taking out of his account.”

A victim impact statement from Mr Wall, which he composed a month before his death, said: “I trusted Stephanie Todd and feel she has betrayed that trust by stealing money from me when I was in a vulnerable position. 

"Since this I have been constantly anxious... and find it difficult to trust people. 

"The impact of this theft from me has marred the final years of my life.”