A support worker who stole thousands of pounds from a 98-year-old Stamford pensioner has been jailed.
Brenda Couzens (50) of Masterton Road, Stamford, was given permission to use widow Olive Balderson’s bank card on shopping trips - but after picking up groceries would take money from Mrs Balderson’s account and keep it for herself.
Today (Monday) Couzens was jailed for 18 months at Lincoln Crown Court after pleading guilty to theft of £5,160 from her victim, after Recorder Timothy Raggatt QC said it was impossible to imagine a more vulnerable victim.
Mrs Balderson, who lived in a sheltered housing scheme in St Martins Close, Stamford, died in January this year.
Stephen Kemp, prosecuting, told the court: “Olive Balderson was, at the time, a 98 year old widow living in sheltered housing. She was one of their most vulnerable residents. She was housebound and had visits from carers six times a day.
“One of her support workers was this defendant. She would visit Mrs Balderson at least twice a week to do her shopping and cleaning. The defendant had access to Mrs Balderson’s bank card and also knew her PIN.”
The first concerns were raised in November 2010 after a manager visited Mrs Balderson and discovered that large sums of cash were being withdrawn from her account.
Mr Kemp said: “This was a concern because she had no need for large amounts of cash and had no knowledge of any withdrawals.”
Further investigations revealed a number of withdrawals of amounts ranging from £50 to £300.
Couzens denied she had regularly taken money but was suspended after admitting she failed to hand over £30 she withdrew via cash back when she paid for shopping.
Recorder Timothy Raggatt QC, sentencing, said: “She was almost 100 years old and significantly disabled, vulnerable and frail. You took advantage of her in a cynical way because you could get away with it. This was nine months of persistent stealing. It clearly calls for an immediate custodial sentence.”
Christopher Jeyes, defending, said Couzens recognised that what she did was a breach of trust.
“She expresses her remorse for what she did.
“This was not a defendant living a lavish lifestyle. She had chronic debts and was struggling on a day to day basis. It is clear that she owed significant sums of money to various organisations.”