Carer jailed for fleecing two elderly spinsters - St Albans

06/06/2014

A carer who fleeced two elderly spinsters of more than £20,000 to fund her fruit machine addiction was today, Friday, 06 June 2014, jailed for a year.

Elizabeth Hedger, aged 61, was visiting Mecca in Stevenage five times a week and spending £300 each time she was there.  She told the police that she had been hoping for a "big win" to pay the money back to Grace and Edith Whiting, St Albans Crown Court heard.

Hedger had been the private carer for 91-year-old Grace Whiting, who has since died, and her sister Edith, aged 88, at their homes in Welwyn Garden City.

Margaret Mascherenas prosecuting for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said suspicion fell on Hedger, who had worked for the elderly women for 7 years, when Grace was admitted to hospital. Her niece Gillian was trying to assist social services in a financial assessment for her care needs, but could not find her bank statements.  When a new bank statement arrived in the post, Gillian Whiting discovered that six cashpoint withdrawals were made while her aunt was in hospital. She spoke to Hedger who then confessed to her vicar that she had stolen from both sisters.

The court was told that at first the sisters did not believe Hedger would have taken the money, as she was a trusted friend. Although Edith was left unable to pay her bills as a result of the thefts, both church-going sisters showed forgiveness and said they did not want her prosecuted.

When Hedger, of Howlands, Welwyn Garden City, was arrested, she told the police she was playing the fruit machines five nights a week and spending £300 each night. "She said she was hoping for a big win to pay the money back," said the prosecutor.

Hedger, who was supported in court by two sons and a daughter-in-law, pleaded guilty to stealing £1,241.50 from Grace between 14 May 2012, and 01 October 2013. She also admitted stealing in excess of £20,000 from Edith between 23 December 2011, and 01 November 2013.

Philip Sutton, defending, said Hedger had serious medical problems, including having suffered two strokes and epilepsy. He said she had worked for the women for years before she started taking the money.

Jailing her, Judge Andrew Bright QC said: "This was a callous breach of trust. Edith Whiting has been left with not enough money to pay her bills. She may have forgiven you, but I haven't."

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