Thief stole cash from elderly stroke victim who let her in to shelter from rain

Joanne Swift
Joanne Swift

A persistent thief who targeted a 70-year-old Good Samaritan in her own home has been jailed.

Joanne Swift was invited into her victim's Hartlepool home to shelter from the rain for three hours and even given a cup of tea.

The case was heard vat Teesside Crown Court.

The case was heard vat Teesside Crown Court.

But Swift returned the kindness by stealing the victim's weekly £400 spending money, Teesside Crown Court heard.

The court heard Swift has 140 offences on her record and Judge Howard Crowson said she has been "persistently dishonest for the last 20 years".

"It was about 1pm when Swift knocked on the door of the one-bedroom bungalow," said Jenny Haigh, prosecuting.

"The occupant is a 70-year-old lady who describes herself as a little unsteady on her feet following a stroke.

"Swift, who had suitcases and bags, told the victim she had come to visit her grandmother next door but she was not in.

"It was raining, and the victim invited Swift into her home, allowed her to use the bathroom, and made her tea."

The court heard Swift stayed in the house for about three hours.

"The victim began to feel increasingly uncomfortable with Swift's presence," said Ms Haigh.

"She describes her as talking too much.

"After she left, the victim checked her handbag which had been on the sofa.

"There was £400 missing, the victim is certain it was that amount because she had drawn out that sum as spending money for the week."

Swift, 39, of no fixed abode, admitted theft on April 24.

She has previous convictions for 140 offences.

Andrew Teate, defending, said in mitigation: "Ms Swift did not set out to steal from this lady.

"She was effectively homeless having fallen out with her boyfriend, and her story of her grandmother living nearby is true.

"Ms Swift hoped she might at least be able to store her possessions there, even if she could not stay.

"She has not had a settled address since being released from prison for conveying a substance into prison.

"Drugs is her main problem, and if she can tackle that she may be able to stop offending,"

Judge Howard Crowson jailed Swift for 12 months.

The judge told her: "You have been persistently dishonest for the last 20 years.

"I'm told your offending happens when you fall on hard times.

"The trouble is whenever you fall on hard times, somebody else has to suffer.

"In this case, a woman in her 70s lost an entire week's money.

"You may not have targeted her for theft when you knocked on her door, but you certainly did once inside.

"I am keen that if possible she should be compensated, although recovering anything from you will not be easy."

Swift was made the subject of a compensation order of £400 to be paid at £5 a week, starting when she is released from prison.

The judge banned Swift from contacting the victim for five years.