Pensioner plundered £6k of friend’s money

Preston Crown Court
Preston Crown Court
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A retired woman who stole nearly £6,000 from a close friend – in what a judge called a mean and serious crime – has avoided being sent to prison.

Ann Coward withdrew hundreds of pounds at a time from the bank account of a friend, a man in his late 80s.

The money disappeared over a 17-month period when she was supposed to be helping him with financial matters due to his deteriorating eyesight.

And Preston Crown Court heard that when the truth began to emerge, she tried to cast the blame elsewhere, by suggesting one of his daughters might be responsible.

Coward, 70, of Paddington Avenue, St Michael’s-on-Wyre, had pleaded guilty to a single charge of theft.

She was given 26 weeks in prison, suspended for two years.

The court was told that the two pensioners had been friends for many years, but became closer when their respective spouses both died. At one stage, the victim even moved into Coward’s home so she could help look after him.

Raquel Simpson, prosecuting, said the defendant asked for third party access to his bank account, which was authorised.

He later gave his bank card to his daughter while they were out together, and she was surprised that his bank balance seemed low.

She was shocked when she telephoned Coward who appeared calm as she said: “It’s these holes in the walls making mistakes.

There should be another digit in front “He’s got thousands”.

When it became apparent what might have been happening, the defendant suggested one of his daughters might be responsible.

Coward had stolen £5,950 in total. Police inquiries showed that she had had nearly £20,000 in credit card and other loans around that time.

Almost 50 references on behalf of Coward were handed in for the judge to consider.

Chris Hudson, defending, said there were many people who held her in high regard.

She had no previous convictions and he suggested she was an “intrinsically decent, worthy member of society”.

Judge Robert Altham said it had been a particularly mean and serious offence.

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