Family welcomes jail sentence for fraudster who stole from war veteran

The family of a war veteran defrauded of thousands of pounds by the woman who had legal control of her finances has welcomed a jail sentence for the thief.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 10:35 am

Heather Garbutt-Iley had been given control of her husband's aunt Rita Telford's finances by the Court of Protection, after the pensioner was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2015.

Newcastle Crown Court heard Mrs Telford, a member of the Royal Signals in World War 2 who went on to own a clothes shop in Sunderland, had £108,000 in savings when Garbutt-Iley was granted Power of Attorney.

Within four months, the amount in the account had dropped by more than £70,000 – despite it being topped up by regular pension payments that would cover her care costs.

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Rita Telford during her war service

The court was told Garbutt-Iley, of Ferndale Grove, East Boldon, had paid most of the money back but she admitted fraud by abuse of position in relation to £7,194 that is still unaccounted for.

Judge Edward Bindloss jailed Garbutt-Iley for 12 months and told her: "You were not entitled to that money, you were not entitled to use it for your own purposes.

"Those who are placed in a position of trust by the Court of Protection must discharge their duties both lawfully and scrupulously."

As part of the sentencing, the Judge heard a victim statement from Mrs Telford's great-niece Fiona Rider, who said her aunt was "loving, caring and generous" and had lived a financially secure and comfortable life.

Fiona Rider traveled from her home in Bedford to attend the hearing and said the family had been pleased the judge had recognised that the offence was so serious that a custodial sentence was required.

"It was good that the court saw that she has never expressed any regret.” she said. “At no point has she ever apologised or tried to make things right.

"I was really, really happy to see justice for my great-aunt done.”

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The family had fought to wrest back control of Mrs Telford’s estate after Garbutt-Iley admitted what she was doing in a phone call: “She told me everything she had done and at that point, I thought ‘This is not right’ and got the police involved.”

Fiona said Garbutt-Iley had not been close to Mrs Telford : “She was not particularly known to my great-aunt.

"She had not long married my uncle. She came in to the family and took over when my great-aunt was quite vulnerable – she said she knew what she was doing.”

The court heard Mrs Telford died at a care home in Hebburn in 2017, at the age of 93.

Fiona said the family had been unable to access her home while Garbutt-Iley held the Power of Attorney: “Because she had hold of the keys, we could not get into the house to get any of Rita’s belongings, which was horrible because she had Alzheimer’s and so those things were really important to her, ” said Fiona.

"The residential home said she had literally been dropped of in the clothes she was standing up in and they did not know anything else abut her.

"It has been a long old fight but it was nice to be in court to see some kind of justice.”

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