A FRAIL pensioner has told how she will never forgive a neighbour who stole £4,000 of her life savings.
Iris Thompson said she treated Adelle Ganley like a daughter after she befriended the thief’s family when they moved into the street eight years ago.
But 20-year-old Ganley betrayed that trust by stealing thousands of pounds from her and her late husband Charlie’s life savings..
When great-gran Mrs Thompson discovered the theft, the stress caused her weight to plummet to just over six stone and she was admitted to hospital, where she spent more than two weeks.
“I can never forgive Adelle, not ever,” Mrs Thompson told the Echo. “She was only 12 when she moved into the street. She made friends with my little dog. She was one of us, she would come in when she wanted to come in. She was a lovely little bairn.”
Magistrates were told Ganley initially asked Mrs Thompson – who lives just two doors down on Empress Street, Southwick – for a £200 loan to buy a mobile phone.
The trusting pensioner, who has difficulty getting out due to mobility problems, handed Ganley her debit card and PIN, and told her to withdraw the money from a cashpoint.
Ganley repaid the money the following week, but unbeknown to Mrs Thompson she continued to take increasing amounts of her money. Between September and October last year, she took the debit card on an almost daily basis and withdrew £300 a time.
The theft emerged after Mrs Thompson asked her children to investigate when a bank statement showed that money had been withdrawn from a cashpoint at the Stadium of Light. When police checked CCTV footage, they spotted Ganley.
“I couldn’t believe it when they told me. It couldn’t be Adelle,” the retired cleaner said. “I was flabbergasted. She was like one of the family. She used to come in every day unless she was poorly. Since this has happened, I haven’t seen her.”
Mrs Thompson’s daughter Jane McCormack, 55, said: “My mum used to give her coppers for doing the dishes. She treated her as a daughter or granddaughter. She was allowed to roam around and do whatever she wanted. She was company for my mum who is hard of hearing and not very mobile.
“What’s worse than anything is the trust my mum had in her. For her to do this after all the birthday presents and the Christmas presents we have got her over the years.
“She has been coming in here on a daily basis stealing my mum’s card from her, presumably when she was out of the room making a cup of tea for her, then putting it back in her purse when she wasn’t looking. She hasn’t only stolen from my mother. She has stolen from my deceased father.”
Ganley’s actions have shocked the close-knit Southwick community and members of the family’s local housing association, Riverside Housing, clubbed together to raise more than £100 for Mrs Thompson. People also came round with flowers and presents when they heard the news.
“I want to say a big thank you to them,” Jane added. “It’s shocked everybody.”
Ganley’s three-month jail sentence was suspended for one year, when she appeared in court this week to plead guilty to theft, and she was told to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work.
She was ordered to repay the £4,000 at a rate of £50 per week. It will take her six-and-a-half years to repay Mrs Thompson, who will be 85 next month.
When approached by the Echo at her home and asked if she wanted to apologise, Ganley curtly told our reporter: “No” before slamming the door.