Health Care assistant and Nurse jailed for fraud - St Albans

25/10/2013

A health care assistant and her nurse partner fleeced an elderly wealthy recluse out of three quarters of a million pounds.

Celia Brinkley, 45, was jailed for 7 years today, Friday, 25 October 2013, by Judge Andrew Bright QC who said it was difficult to imagine a greater or deeper breach of trust inflicted on an elderly, vulnerable man.

Her former partner nurse Kerry Davies, 40, was sentenced to 27 months in prison after admitting taking over £80,000 from Anthony Hornett, who has since died.

The couple wrongly believed Mr Hornett, 80, had changed his will so they would inherit the house in St Albans that they were renting from him at a knock-down rate. They made plans for a lavish extension to the property - paid for with the money they had stolen from him.

When colleagues at St Albans City Hospital noticed their luxury lifestyle - which included new cars, expensive trips, treating friends and having designer handbags - they told them they had won £250,000 on the lottery.

St Albans Crown Court heard they were able to leave their jobs after Mr Hornett, who owned three properties in St Albans,  agreed to pay them £2,000 each a month to be his carers.

Prosecutor Laura Blackband said, the couple met Mr Hornett in 2009 when he was in his late 70s. "Mr Hornett was very vulnerable and lonely. He had lived alone for many years. He had never married and had no children. He was not visited by relatives and was a recluse in reality," she said.

He owned three properties in the city and agreed to rent them one in Central Drive, which had been neglected. She said: "They agreed they would clean it. He would provide the white goods and would pay the council tax. The rent was £500 per month. The market rental would be £1,000. They had a very good deal."

They took over the property in June 2009 and moved in that September after cleaning it. Over the next few months they began extracting money.  By June the following year Brinkley had received £127,000 in cheques and Davies £40,000.  £30,000 was spent on a VW Toureg for Brinkley and she also obtained a Mercedes convertible for £43,000 as well as a scooter.

One text message Brinkley sent to Davies read: "Sorry babe he will only give you £5,000 for your birthday."Davies replied: "I think that will do babe. "In fact Mr Hornett wrote a cheque for £7,000.

After he fell off a garage roof in June 2010 Mr Hornett spent time in hospital. On his release in August that year the two women gave up their jobs at the hospital to care for him at his home in York Road. Brinkley would visit him twice a day, with Davies about once a week. Brinkley had access to his cheque book, forging eight cheques. She also used his Barclaycard.

Ms Blackband said three months earlier in March 2010 Mr Hornett had been plied with drink and was persuaded by Brinkley to write a letter to his solicitor changing his will to leave them the house in Central Drive.

The elderly man's solicitor contacted him because she was suspicious about the proposed change to his will. It was not changed but Mr Hornett allowed the two women to continue to think they were his beneficiaries. As a result they planned £200,000 worth of extensions to the house in Central Drive. This was being paid for by £300,000 they had amassed from their victim in a joint account.

Work was started on the extension in July 2011 and this was noticed by a local police officer who had called on the elderly man. He also saw the two expensive cars. As a result the police obtained a Production Order from the court to look into the couple's financial affairs and they were arrested.

Inquiries were carried out and the total loss for Mr Hornett was put at £733,563.46p. "It was a staggering figure," said Ms Blackband.

In an interview with the police he said he had become frightened of Brinkley, who the prosecutor said was "he prime mover" in the fraud. On one occasion he said she became aggressive when he questioned the cost of a £10,000 boiler that she said needed installing in her home. He said it had been easier to give into them.

Brinkley of Dellfield, St Albans admitted two charges of fraud, 9 of forgery and one of converting criminal property.   Davies also of Dellfied, St Albans admitted one charge of converting criminal property.

Terence Woods, defending Brinkley, said she had been in a relationship with Davies and they had been looking to move out of hospital accommodation. He said Brinkley and Woods were the only two people in the world who had cared from Mr Hornett who was an eccentric individual.

Gideon Cammerman for Davies said she had studied for a nursing degree at Sheffield University and had been an excellent nurse. "She know the Nursing and Midwifery Council will ensure she never works as a nurse again." He said the relationship between the pair was over.

Judge Bright said: "It is difficult to imagine a greater or deeper breach of trust inflicted on an elderly, vulnerable man. They were nursing staff in St Albans hospital - a job they gave up to live off the proceeds of crime."

He told Brinkley: "You targeted him relentlessly, mercilessly and in a truly wicked way in a gross breach of trust over a considerable period." He said she had "milked him for every penny" she could.

In sentencing Davies he said she had allowed Brinkley to do her "dirty work" for her.

A confiscation hearing will take place in January next year.

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