'You will be brought to justice': Detective's warning after mum and daughter jailed for stealing £20,000 from frail 94-year-old at Sunderland care home

Susan Stewart and Carly Douglas.
Susan Stewart and Carly Douglas.

A mum and daughter who stole £20,000 from an elderly resident at the Sunderland care home where they worked used her 'confused state' for their own 'selfish gain', a detective has said.

Susan Stewart, 49, and Carly Douglas, 28, are behind bars after they deceived a vulnerable 94-year-old woman in their care at Sycamore Lodge, Sunderland.

Stewart was employed as General Manager of the Nookside-based care home while her daughter, Douglas, worked as a part-time care assistant.

The victim had £18,000 stolen from her account via online transfer and almost £3,000 withdrawn at various ATMs between June and July 2016.

Stewart, aka Suzanne, and Douglas admitted their offences at Newcastle Crown Court in August and were sentenced on Friday.
Stewart was jailed for 27 months prison after she admitted theft and transferring criminal property.

Douglas was jailed for 30 months after pleading guilty to theft, transferring criminal property and fraud by false representation.

Detective Constable Terry Robertson, of Northumbria Police, said: "Stewart and Douglas abused the trust of an elderly female in their care and saw an opportunity to use the victim’s confused state for their own selfish gain.

"They then attempted to cover up their crimes until the last minute, only admitting their guilt at the eleventh hour when the weight of evidence was overwhelming.

"They have now been jailed as a result of their dishonesty. Let this be a message to anybody who looks to prey on the most vulnerable in our society – you will be pursued, you will be caught and you will be brought to justice.

"I’d like to thank the victim’s family for their patience throughout this case and the care home for their unwavering cooperation."

The court heard that 13 cash withdrawals worth £2,991 were made using the victim’s bank card between June 23 and July 20, 2016, while £18,000 was also transferred into Douglas’ account via an online transfer.

Within 48 hours of the five-figure transaction, Douglas also moved £6,000 in two separate transfers into her mother’s bank account.

However, after the victim’s bank became suspicious due to the account’s activity, a security block was triggered.

On July 21, Douglas phoned the bank three times claiming to be her elderly victim in an attempt to release the block on the account but failed to answer the security questions.

Aware that suspicions were mounting, Stewart inputted a series of false entries into the care home’s internal database explaining why cash had been withdrawn, which she insisted came at the victim’s request.

Douglas and Stewart were arrested and initially interviewed about the offences in September 2016 – but denied any wrongdoing.

Both women were due to stand trial in August 2018, but changed their pleas to guilty.

Stewart, of Hemming Street, Sunderland, admitted the theft of £2,991.65 via ATM withdrawals and money laundering relating to the £6,000 transferred from Douglas.

Douglas, of Offerton Street, Sunderland, admitted the theft of £18,000 via bank transfer, money laundering relating to the £6,000 transfer and fraud by false representation in relation to the fraudulent telephone calls which she made to the bank.

After the case, Linda Wrout, Managing Director of Sycamore Care Centre, said: "Stewart and Douglas are guilty of an appalling breach of trust after they systematically conned an elderly resident.

"Anybody who works in the care home industry, and the wider public, will surely be horrified by their crimes. They stole a woman’s money without regret or remorse and thought they would get away with it.

"It is an unforgiveable offence against a vulnerable member of the community who they were entrusted to care for. I am pleased that their dishonesty has been laid bare to the world.

"Stewart was a manager who everybody trusted, having been in her role for 12 years, and this meant we were all taken in by her lies and deceit. She and her daughter, Douglas, have caused enormous distress and upset to everyone who lives and works here.

"At Sycamore Care Centre, we do not handle any of our residents’ finances. The overwhelming majority of our service users have a nominated and trusted relative or friend to look after their affairs.

"We have been thoroughly inspected by Financial Governance at Sunderland City Council as a result of this case, and all of their findings verify our high standards and good practices, also stating that they could not suggest anything further that we could have put in place to mitigate the low risk.

"Our staff have also met with residents and their families to inform them of this case, explain our financial policies and procedures and offer any reassurances.

"I am incredibly proud of the work undertaken by the overwhelming majority of our staff, who will continue to provide the best possible care and support to the most vulnerable people in our communities."