Police quiz care home owners over £358,000 benefits

TWO former care home proprietors have been questioned following a dawn raid over disability benefits worth up to £358,000.

Essex Police seized £9,740 cash from the home of David, 71, and Linda, 56, Ramchum, when they searched nine houses owned by the couple on Tuesday.

Mr and Mrs Ramchum, who live at Cowdray Avenue, were held and later released by police on suspicion of causing neglect to 10 adults with learning difficulties under the Mental Capacity Act.

Detective Sergeant Stephen Jennings, of Colchester CID, successfully applied to Chelmsford Magistrates (April 22) to detain the cash (£9,740) for three months under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 pending further investigations.

Bench chairman Bob Davies said they were satisfied the criteria for detention had been met.

He revealed that some of the cash had been found in a bedside cupboard and that there were clearly allegations involving the couple.

DS Jennings said the couple received between £350,000 and £380,000 in benefits which remained “unaccounted” for.

Social Services officers had paid a late night visit to the care home last April and discovered some residents wearing damp clothing and winter jackets in bed, the court heard.

The home was “very cold” and following a second visit Essex County Council withdrew its financial support because the standards fell below what was expected and the home closed last year.

However, up to £358,000 in Essex County Council benefits was paid for the care of 10 adults with learning disabilities.

“That money is still unaccounted for, if they were neglected then potentially this amounts to proceeds of crime,” said DS Jennings.

He said cash worth around £5,000 was found in a bedside drawer and the rest was scattered around downstairs.

DS Jennings said police were sifting through documentation discovered during the raids.

“There are nine addresses and its going to take a long time to go through the paperwork.”

David Howell, representing the Ramchums, said the cash belonged to the couple.

“Part of it was the pension received by Mr Ramchum who had been employed as a nurse, you can check their bank accounts.”

DS Jennings: “Yes, we will be looking at his back accounts.”

He agreed that the couple had fully co-operated with police and had answered all questions put to them.

Mr Howell said the couple kept a large amount of cash at home because they were concerned about deposits in the light of the current banking crisis.

As he was elderly, Mr Ramchum found it an easier method of paying off tradesmen, added Mr Howell.

Mr Howell said the couple had been given a £2,000 deposit from a new tenancy agreement and £600 in an advance payment.

Mrs Ramchum had also been given a monetary gift by her father in Mauritius.

Mr Howell said it would put the couple through further financial hardship if the cash was held by police.

He urged the bench to reject the police application, saying: “The money was put together to pay for legitimate bills.”

Mr Howell said it would be better to leave any decision until the Crown Court determined whether any criminal acts took place or that any funds had been taken inappropriately from Essex County Council.