A HEARTLESS man who stole almost £12,000 from a blind pensioner who had let him live at her Stratford home has been jailed – despite his own serious health problems.
Alan Bennett pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to two charges of fraudulently obtaining money from his victim’s account.
The 57 year-old of Willett Gardens, Wellesbourne, was jailed for 16 months, which the judge said had to be immediate despite his medical condition – which includes suffering from chronic pancreatitis which leaves him in constant pain, for which he is on morphine.
Prosecutor Lisa Hancox said Bennett’s victim was a 72-year-old retired high school teacher who, in her later years, had become totally blind. She also began to suffer from hearing problems and had mobility difficulties.
Some years ago she had met Bennett at a Stratford pub where his wife worked behind the bar, and they became friends.
In 2011 he turned up at her West Green Drive home and said there had been a domestic incident and he could not return home.
So she allowed him to stay in her spare room, and she then began receiving rent which was paid by the council as housing benefit into her bank account, into which maintenance from her ex-husband and her pensions were also paid.
The pensioner trusted Bennett who initially assisted with her care, although she did have carers who visited, and they shared bills and expenditure on food.
But the relationship between them began to break down and she complained of him being verbally abusive and not even allowing her to turn up the heat in her own home.
A taxi driver who she regularly used became concerned for her welfare, and about Bennett’s behaviour towards her, and called the police.
When officers spoke to the pensioner she confided she suspected Bennett was exploiting her financially, although at first she did not want to make a formal complaint because of her concerns about Bennett’s health.
After he moved out, she did make a complaint, and Bennett was arrested at a pub where he was staying on a B&B basis, but claimed his victim was making false allegations to get back at him for moving out.
But Bennett later admitted he had cashed cheques totalling £19,000 from the pensioner’s account, and had kept around £10,000 for himself.
Bennett, who had some old convictions for dishonesty, including theft from an employer in the 1980s, used some of the money to buy a car, and had more than £3,700 in cash when he was arrested.
He had also applied for a credit card, giving false employment details, and then set up a direct debit arrangement for the monthly bill to be paid out of the pensioner’s account.
David Everett, defending, said Bennett had worked in the motor trade until eight years ago when he had to stop work because of his poor health – adding he had suffered five strokes in the past six years.
Jailing Bennett, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano told him: “If you prey on an elderly, vulnerable person over a period of time and take her money, you must go to prison, no matter what your health problems.”