The family of a fraud victim who had £170,000 stolen from her bank account fear they’ll never get justice after a police probe has dragged on for more than five years.

The elderly woman, who we are not naming, from Seaham, County Durham, had more than £172,000 taken from her bank accounts between 2013 and 2018.

Loans were also set up in her name and the woman, who had recently retired, was bombarded with letters from bailiffs.

When her family discovered she had been left with just 36p to her name they alerted police and Lloyds bank in June 2018 and her retirement dreams of buying a caravan were left in tatters.

In letters seen by The Northern Echo, Lloyds admitted a member of staff was responsible. The bank said: “I’m sorry that a member of our staff committed fraud on your account.”

The banking giant - more than two years later - refunded the money that it said “was stolen from you (the victim)” and apologised that they “didn’t do this when we first discovered that you were a victim of fraud”.

But despite the admission from Lloyds in 2020, five-and-a-half-years on no charges have been brought in the case.

Meanwhile the elderly victim, who banked at Lloyds' Seaham branch, has been left scared to leave her house while her family say her retirement has been ruined and fear they’ll never get justice.

Her son told The Northern Echo: “It’s destroyed her. She’s not been out of the house for three years.

“All she wants is him to be prosecuted. He’s out there living his happy life.

 “I asked her how much he’d took and she said, ‘everything’.

“He left her with 36p in the bank. She had nothing, not even enough for a loaf of bread.

“He took three loans out in her name, mam had never ever been in debt in her life and it worried her more than anything. Two were apparently for boats and one for a car – she can’t drive and can’t swim.

“In the meantime, my step-dad died and there wasn’t a penny to bury him.

“The bank accepted what happened – they wouldn’t have paid my mam back if they didn’t have to.

“We’ve just been getting absolutely nowhere with the police. Every time we ring we feel like we we’re being fobbed off one way or another. They tell you they’ll be doing something in six weeks or that it’s with someone else but here we are five years later.

“We need justice, and I don’t think we’re wrong for asking for that.”

It is understood a file was passed to the CPS by police last year but this was passed back to detectives asking for further evidence. This has since been returned to the CPS who are making a decision over charges.

But the family also fear that if charges are brought they may still face a long wait for justice owing to huge court backlogs. 

It has since emerged that Durham Constabulary has just one forensic accountant tackling fraud cases.

A spokesperson for the Durham force said: “This case has been thoroughly investigated and a file has been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service and we are awaiting a decision.”

The force did not respond to our questions about whether the delay was longer than normal on fraud cases.

Meanwhile the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said a decision was now being made.

A spokesperson said: “In May of last year, the CPS received a file of evidence from Durham Constabulary in relation to an allegation of fraud... Following an initial review of the case, additional enquiries have now been completed by police and a charging decision is imminent.”

Easington MP Grahame Morris has been supporting the family and raised the case in parliament last month.

He told the Commons: “In 2018, I was approached by an elderly constituent who had fallen victim to a bank fraud because of an abuse of trust. It took six months for the bank to admit fault.

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“I raised the issue with Durham Constabulary in 2019, but the case remains unresolved after nearly five years, mainly due to a severe lack of resources, with only one forensic accountant in the constabulary.

“Tragically, my constituent lost her husband during this time and her own health has suffered, more from the stress of the long investigation than from the initial crime. This is not justice—we are failing victims of crime.”

The Home Office said it was unable to comment on individual cases.

Mr Morris MP added: “At every stage, my constituent has been failed by a system that has forgotten its role is to pursue the interests of justice and victims.

"The long-term, persistent, and ongoing delays in obtaining justice for my constituent demonstrate the catastrophic failures that exist within our criminal justice system for victims of crime.”

A Lloyds spokesperson said: "Where authorities contact us for support with investigations, we always co-operate fully.”