Crooked Sunderland cleaner caught on camera stealing from her elderly employer in sting operation by his suspicious family

A crooked Sunderland cleaner was caught on camera stealing from her elderly employer in a sting operation by his suspicious family.

They installed secret CCTV at his city home which filmed Elaine Ward, 67, taking cash he kept in a rucksack. Ward, of Felstead Crescent, Ford Estate, started working for him when his health began to fail and he became housebound, a court heard.

Prosecutor Stephanie Cook said Ward was dismissed when it was noticed she was leaving early from her twice weekly £15 shifts. It was then the man’s relatives realised cash – saved by him to pay for his funeral - was missing and suspicion fell on the married cleaner.

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Ms Cook said Ward was given her job back in a bid to catch her out and CCTV was fitted at the one-bed flat. Soon afterwards, she was caught taking money, leading to her arrest and guilty plea to a single theft charge, magistrates in South Tyneside heard.

The case was heard at South Tyneside Magistrates Court.

Prosecutors claimed she had stolen £4,385 but could not prove it and Ward admitted her guilt on the basis she took £1,000, her victim having since died.

Ms Cook said: “The victim was a gentleman who was in poor health. He couldn’t speak coherently because of hospital treatment. He hadn’t left his address in almost a year. His sister took control of his finances. His money was kept in a black rucksack.

“In August 2019 the defendant was employed to clean twice a week. He would say that she would not stay the full two hours, and in September 2020 she was told her services were no longer required.

“In October the rucksack was checked, and it was noticed some money was missing. She was offered her job back. CCTV was installed, and she was caught stealing money from the rucksack. She initially denied it but then admitted it.”

In a statement to police, the man’s sister said she felt “completely betrayed” by Ward, having placed “100% trust in her”. She added: “There’s no reason or excuse she could give for this betrayal.”

Chris Wilson, defending, said there was no rhyme or reason why Ward, who has no previous convictions, had offended.

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He added: “She was hitherto a lady of impeccable character. There can be no sensible explanation offered as to why she took the money. It can be described as an aberration. There’s no question that she doesn’t have a lavish lifestyle, there are no trappings. There’s genuine remorse.”

Magistrates sentenced Ward to an 18-month community order, with 10 rehabilitation days. They ordered her to pay her victim’s family £1,000 compensation within 28 days, with a £95 victim surcharge and £85 court costs.