Bedfordshie Carer Accused Of £19K Theft From Pensioner

A carer has gone on trial accused of stealing more than £19,000 from a frail and vulnerable 77 year old women she was supposed to be looking after.

Later, when quizzed about the money Christine Townsend is alleged to have said it was given to her as a wedding present by elderly June Marden.

The existence of the money is said to have come to light after Miss Townsend petitioned for bankruptcy.

At Luton crown court Miss Townsend, 54, now of New Road, Clifton but who at the time was living in Saint Francis Court, Shefford, plead not guilty to two counts of stealing money from the pensioner.

At the start of the trial the jury heard Mrs Marden, from Sandy, died in January of this year aged 81.

Andrew Evans, prosecuting, said the theft of the money took place in April 2004.

At the time Mrs Marden was living in a council owned bungalow in Windsor Way, Sandy.

Her husband Charlie was in a local nursing home with severe dementia and had not lived at the house since 2003.

The jury heard that Mrs Marden, a mother of three and a grandmother, was not in good health herself.

She suffered from arthritis and by the end of 2003 was suffering from acute anxiety and depression, which were the early signs that she was developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

“She was finding it difficult to cope on her own mentally and physically,” said the prosecutor.

He added “She was particularly vulnerable to exploitation.”

Mr Evans, prosecuting the case on behalf of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, formerly known as the Department of Trade and Industry, said since 1996 social services had provided the Mardens with carers.

The actual help was provided by a company known as Medico Nursing and Health Care, who employed the defendant as a part time carer.

At the time, said the prosecutor, she was known as Christine Susan Dunville which had been her married name. She was to later change her name by deed poll to Townsend.

The jury heard the defendant was one of the carers who visited June Marden and would shop for her once or twice a week.

Mr Evans then told the court how Mrs Marden had two joint savings accounts with her husband.

A Halifax Saver Reward Account held £17,231 and 86p, while a Halifax Liquid Gold Account contained £2,478 and 25p. Both accounts were at the Halifax branch in High Street, Biggleswade.

The prosecutor said on April 20 2004 £17,230 was withdrawn from the saver reward account and £2,477 from the liquid gold account.

The money, a total of £19,707 said Mr Evans, was taken out of the two accounts by means of two bankers drafts made payable to a C.S. Dunville.

The following day both amounts were credited to an Abbey National account held by the defendant, said the prosecutor.

He went on: “It could not have happened by honest means. It could not have happened as a result of Mrs Marden freely and willingly deciding to pay that money over to the defendant. At that time she was not in such a state of mind that she could make such a decision of her own free will.”

Mr Evans said the “only way” the money could have ended up with the defendant was as a result of her taking advantage of the vulnerability of Mrs Marden and exploiting it.

She was not a wealthy lady, he said, adding that there was no way she would have given almost her entire life savings to the defendant who she had know for only a short time.

The prosecutor said it was also against Medico’s rules for carers to accept gifts from people they were looking after.

A week after the money had been paid into the Abbey National account, said Mr Evans, the defendant transferred the entire balance into another account held in the name of Christine Dunville and her fiance.

In July 2004, the jury was told, she changed her name by deed poll to Christine Susan Townsend and the following month she changed the name on the account from Dunville to Townsend.

The prosecutor said no one knew about the large sum of money that had been transferred into the account from Mrs Mardens two accounts with the Halifax. Medico were unaware it had happened and so too was Mrs Marden’s daughter, Mrs Susan Leathers from who lived in Melbourn, near Royston, Herts.

Mr Evans said the existence of the money didn’t come to light until several months later when Miss Townsend petitioned for bankruptcy at the county court in Bedford in January 2005.

At the time she was claiming she was unable to pay debts of 37,000 pounds.

The court heard despite the fact she was now using the name of Townsend, the defendant filed for bankruptcy under the name of Christine Dunville.

She was required submit a a list of what assets she held including building society and bank accounts but, said Mr Evans, she did not say she was known as Townsend or that she held Abbey National Accounts in that name.

The prosecutor said the only bank account she told the official receiver she had was a Nat West account which contained just “a few pounds”.

He said the joint account she had paid Mr Marden’s money into, contained £29,008 and therefore was an “important asset”.

Miss Townsend was declared bankrupt in early 2005 and, as is normal, an insolvency examiner was appointed to check she had been full and frank in declaring what assets she owned.

Mr Evans, said the examiner, Laura Pacey, subsequently discovered the existence of the Abbey National Account which had a balance at the time of 27,000.

The court was told the examiner was also able to identify the transaction involving the £19,707.

Because of this new information Miss Townsend was invited to attend an interview at the Official Receivers office in Northampton in 2005.

During the interview, said Mr Evans, the defendant said the money had come from a friend called Mrs Marden and was a wedding gift, although no wedding had taken place.

The prosecutor said she didn not say that Mrs Marden was a client of Medico and she had been her carer

“She said the reason she didn’t declare the money was that she felt it wasn’t her money. The prosecution say she was right. It was Mrs Marden’s,” he said.

Laura Pacey decided to write to Mrs Marden to try and get more information, said the prosecutor, and as a result the letter was received by her daughter, Mrs Leathers.

Mrs Leathers didn’t know who Christine Dunville was and when she spoke to her mother, the court was told, the elderly women said she had given her some money on one occasion to help her son get his car fixed.

Mrs Leathers was under the impression at the time the amount was between £20 and £50, said Mr Evans

He said the mother also told her daughter how Miss Townsend had been coming to the bungalow and pestering her about how she had supposedly given her the money saying “You do remember giving me the money.”

The pensioner told her daughter she had been upset by the visits and did not like leaving her home because the defendant would be waiting outside.

Mr Evans said the visits to Mrs Marden’s home were attempts by Miss Townsend to “prime her to come up with a story”.

The court heard in August 2006 Miss Townsend was interviewed at Ampthill Police station by a D.T.I. investigator and again repeated that Mrs Marden had given her the money as a wedding gift.

She said the old woman had told her “Have the wedding of your dreams”.