A CARER who stole more than £20,000 from a 96-year-old woman she was supposed to be looking after has avoided being jailed.

Joan Garbutt, 59, from Bedale, withdrew and transferred money from her victim’s bank account after posing as a friend and carer.

The offences came to light after the death of the elderly woman, who granted Garbutt access to her account so she could help manage her finances.

Garbutt stole a total of £22,805 in a number of transactions over three years, North Yorkshire Police said.

She was also claiming benefits at the time and acted as the victim’s friend, but was paid to carry out care duties.

Garbutt was charged with theft but pleaded not guilty. She was found guilty by a jury after a trial.

Appearing at Teesside Crown Court on Thursday, Garbutt avoided jail but the judge gave her a 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

She was also given a six-month curfew, with electronic tagging that prevents her from leaving her home between 7pm and 7am.

North Yorkshire Police launched an investigation in 2017, two months after the death of the victim, who was from Bedale.

After the hearing, PC Caroline Pugh, who led the investigation for North Yorkshire Police, said: “This was a sickening act in which Garbutt gained the trust of a vulnerable 96-year-old woman by pretending to be her friend and carer.

“She then abused her position to systematically steal a large sums of money from the woman’s savings. She showed no remorse and has never admitted her guilt.

“It was a repulsive betrayal of trust and it’s difficult to understand how anyone can do something so heartless and calculated to someone so elderly and vulnerable.

“As a result, the victim’s family have not only had to grieve the death of a loved one, but have also endured additional upset knowing that Garbutt has preyed on the woman’s vulnerability for her own selfish gain.

“I hope the fact she has been brought to justice provides some comfort to them.”

North Yorkshire Police has applied for a Proceeds of Crime Act order to try to recover the money Garbutt stole. A spokesperson for the force added: “If you believe that you or someone you know may have been affected by an offence of this nature, please report it to North Yorkshire Police by calling 101 and selecting option one to speak to our Force Control Room.”