Support worker stole £5,000 from 98-year-old disabled woman in Stamford

A SUPPORT worker stole thousands of pounds from a 98-year-old disabled woman after being trusted with her victim’s bank card, Lincoln Crown Court was told.

Brenda Couzens was given permission to use the card on shopping trips for the woman, who lived in a sheltered housing scheme in Stamford.

But Stephen Kemp, prosecuting, said Couzens obtained money via the cashback system which she then kept for herself.

Couzens also used the card to make withdrawals of up to £300 a time from the victim’s account.

Mr Kemp said: “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 (the victim) at least twice a week to do her shopping and cleaning. The defendant had access to her bank card and also knew her pin number.”

The first concerns were raised in November 2010 after a manager visited the victim and discovered that large sums of cash were being withdrawn from her account.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 cashback when she paid for shopping.

“When interviewed she denied stealing any money from (the victim) and considered her to be a friend. She said she had never taken money from the bank account without permission.”

The court was told that the victim died in January of this year.

Couzens, 50, of Masterton Road, Stamford, admitted theft of £5,160 between February 12 and November 1, 2010. She was jailed for 18 months.

Recorder Timothy Raggatt QC told her it was impossible to imagine a more vulnerable victim.

He told Couzens: “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, mitigating, said Couzens recognised that what she did was a breach of trust.

“She expresses her remorse for what she did,” he said.

“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.”