A GOD-DAUGHTER and her husband stole more than £100,000 when they wiped out the life savings of a 91-year-old dementia patient, a court heard.
Lesley Reeve, 56, and husband Andrew, 55, spent some of the cash on plans to convert their garage into a gym and wet room, then claimed it was a bedroom for elderly spinster Joan Killen – Mrs Reeve’s godmother – to live in, Teesside Crown Court heard.
The couple, from Chichester Close, in the Fens area of Hartlepool, deny four counts of theft, claiming the care home resident gave them the money from her savings, and insist they did not act dishonestly.
The couple are accused of stealing almost £95,000 from Miss Killen’s savings after Mr Reeve became a co-signatory for her accounts when her mental health began to deteriorate, the court heard.
They withdrew cash and transferred money over the internet to their joint account over two years, Matthew Bean, prosecuting, said.
In 2009 she had more than £130,000 in savings, but by October 2011 only £3,000 was left.
“By this time her accounts had been reduced to such an extent she was no longer able to pay the charges for the care home where she lived,” Mr Bean said.
The couple also spent her pension, winter fuel allowance and money they made by renting her home out once she went into care, the jury heard.
They first removed safety equipment installed by the council, despite an official saying she may be fit enough to go home at some stage, the court heard.
They left her so short of money she did not have enough in her account to cover her pocket money while in care, the court heard.
That led to an investigation by Hartlepool Council’s safeguarding team, which demanded Mr Reeve explain what had happened to the money.
Mr Reeve tried and failed to get power of attorney, then the couple started to make payments into her current account to make amends, the court heard.
Their victim had no close relatives visiting her, and although her god-daughter was not a blood relative, she and her husband were Miss Killen’s only family, the court heard.
“She intended to leave almost all her possessions to them in her will,” Mr Bean said.
He said Mrs Reeve used some of her godmother’s money to pay off an £11,174 credit card debt.
They got planning permission to convert their garage into a gym and wet room, the court heard.
They also bought a car, furnishings and electrical goods. There was regular spending at Next, M&S and Argos, funded by Miss Killen, the barrister said.
Their victim was vulnerable due to her dementia, Mr Bean said.
“Both defendants must have been well aware of this and decided to take advantage by taking her life savings.”
The defendants will claim Miss Killen gave them the money to clear credit card debt and to develop their house so she could live with them, Mr Bean said.
“They say they were acting in her best interests and with full permission,” he said.
The trial, expected to run into next week, continues today.