A VULNERABLE pensioner with dementia had almost £25,000 stolen after being conned by a heartless fraudster from Henley.
Richard Hextall-Smith began taking advantage of the 73-year-old widow after his wife started working as a cleaner at her Claverdon home.
But Hextall-Smith of Barley Close, Henley, was jailed for just two years after pleading guilty at Warwick Crown Court to a charge of fraud.
Prosecutor Lee Marklew said that since her husband died around 2004 the woman, who was ‘financially secure,’ had lived alone.
She was quite isolated and, although she had worked in a bank, granted one of her brothers, who lives in Norfolk, power of attorney after she began to show signs of dementia in 2010.
Shortly before then she had met Hextall-Smith’s wife Diana and, as a result, also came into contact with the 64-year-old.
In 2012, the couple became aware the widow had been prevented from driving and Hextall-Smith bought a car from her.
That year, Diana Hextall-Smith was asked to collect the pensioner’s financial paperwork and forward it to her brother so he could prepare her tax return.
In doing so Hextall-Smith discovered her bank details and, after the widow was diagnosed with dementia in January 2013, he set about using her accounts.
Over a period of around 15 months he fraudulently withdrew around £20,000, set up a standing order transfering £600 a month from her account to his, and obtaining £3,700 from her to buy a car.
When the fraud came to light, he and his wife were both arrested and Hextall-Smith admitted what he had done, but claimed it had just been £25 a day for ‘driving her around.’
The court was told how in 1972 Hextall-Smith was jailed for three years at Plymouth Crown Court for deception, in 1979 was jailed for four years by a court in Ireland for dishonesty, and in 1981 was given a suspended sentence for a further offence of deception.
At Southwark Crown Court in 1993 he got three years for theft and forgery, in 1997 a court in France jailed him in his absence for three years for fraud, and at Warwick Crown Court in 2003 he was given a suspended sentence for deception.
Graeme Simpson, defending, argued the pensioner had benefitted socially and emotionally from the couple.
He added Hextall-Smith’s wife is a chronic alcoholic, who is due to begin a home-based detox programme, for which someone needs to supervise medication,
He urged the judge to pass a suspended sentence to enable Hextall-Smith to do that.
But jailing him, Recorder Stuart Sprawson said: “I am quite satisfied you were aware of her situation, and you saw your opportunity to take advantage.
“It involved abuse of a position of trust, was a planned and deliberate targeting of a vulnerable individual.
“You chose to exploit and take advantage of a 73-year-old woman for your own gain and benefit. The leopard has simply not changed its spots.”