The devastated family of a pensioner who was swindled out of £13,000 by a woman acting as his ‘carer’ and her partner have told of their ordeal.
Trusting Allan Cardwell, a retired Leyland Motors worker, had accepted his neighbour Laura Smith’s offer to give him lifts to the pub and do shopping for him, and even put her on his car insurance.
But the court heard that over 18 months Smith, 31, now of Mendip Road, Leyland, took control of the grandad-of-two’s finances, motivated by pressure from drug addicted Gareth Allen, 34, of Young Avenue, who had a £100 a day drug habit. In that time they:
Withdrew funds from his current account
Took out FOUR mobile phone contracts to gain free electrical gifts to sell on
Used credit cards without authority
Bought diesel for themselves
Took out a Wonga loan in his name
Left him with unpaid bills.
Judge Michael Leeming QC, sitting at Preston Crown Court, jailed Allen for 33 months and Smith to 22 months, suspended for 18 months.
Today, Mr Cardwell’s grieving son, Phillip, 50, and daughter-in-law Kat, 47, of Leyland, revealed they became suspicious and tried to get the truth out of him after seeing he had no food, despite Smith’s claim she was acting as his carer and doing his shopping.
Relatives say they were left more than £1,000 out of pocket through paying off debt companies were chasing him for unpaid utility bills.
They said that before his death, the pensioner had to fend off bailiffs.
Phillip, a civil servant, said: “We wanted justice for my dad and don’t want it to happen to anyone else. What we’ve all been through is horrible.
“We had no idea she had taken his bank cards. We were suspicious and sat down with him and explained if there was a problem we would sort it out.
“But he would always clam up if we tried to talk to him about it. We felt powerless.
“He was a sociable person and always enjoyed a drink with friends at his local. But he went very withdrawn.
“One day he rang up and asked to borrow some money and alarm bells rang – he always had enough to live on.”
When the family went round they found a bill for a mobile phone he didn’t have.
Phillip added: “He was mortified. He started to cry and he said he didn’t remember giving her his cards.
“The worst thing is he had a kind heart and if she was in need and had asked he would have given her money.
“He told us that one day she had even asked if he trusted her – he told her he trusted her with his life.”
Carl Hargan, prosecuting at Preston Crown Court, said Allen had been “violent and coercive” and had put pressure on Smith to commit the crimes.
Both admitted five counts of fraud.
Mr Hargan said: “The victim was befriended by Smith.
“She became his unofficial carer. It was thought she had been cleaning and cooking for the victim but he became very withdrawn and in his family’s view became very unkempt.
“In April 2012 the victim contacted his family saying somebody had been taking money from his account.
“It was at this point he admitted Smith had not been bringing him food and had taken control of his finances.”
James Hawks, defending, said Smith had no previous convictions.
Judge Leeming QC said: “He placed great trust and confidence in you. He came to rely on you for a great number of things, although his children and relatives would also visit him and helped to care for him.
“He could not believe what you had done. Suspicions as to your activity, and concern about what was happening to him and his financial affairs, caused a great deal of anxiety for his family.
“The last period of his life was made miserable.”
Smith cried as the judge suspended her jail term, while her estranged partner, who has 21 convictions, sat with his arms folded. She must do 200 hours unpaid work, participate in a probation activity and have supervision.