Social worker from Carlisle jailed after burgling widow’s home

A social worker who stripped bare the home of a vulnerable pensioner after she went into respite care has been jailed for four years.

The horrified 85-year-old came home to discover that virtually everything she had amassed during her lifetime – including sentimental jewellery and her late husband’s ashes – had gone.

Most of her jewellery was recovered along with some of her savings but other personal items and all her furniture and fittings, except for a settee and a cupboard, had vanished forever to the tip or charity shops.

Her social worker, Tony Child, from Carlisle, denied stealing her property but after a nine-day trial he was convicted of three specimen burglary offences involving her flat screen TV, 10 items of jewellery and £380 cash.

Jailing him Judge David Boulton said Child had been dishonest in all his dealings involving the vulnerable old woman.

He said Child had lied to various people as well as to the jury and police, including telling jurors that the victim, Margaret Heyes, had not wanted to go home again.

“We know that is simply not true,” he said.

Child, 63,a father-of-four, was employed by Wigan Social Services at the time of the offences. He had previously worked for Dumfries and Galloway social services but was sacked after complaining about colleagues.

During the trial Liverpool Crown Court heard that in July last year the victim went into hospital after a fall at home and the following month went into a nursing home for respite care.

On August 28 Child went to her bungalow home in Standish, Wigan, to collect clothes for her and found the premises stuffed from floor to ceiling with items.

Neville Biddle, prosecuting, explained that she used to live in a three-bedroomed house but after the death of her husband, Joshua, moved into the one-bedroom bungalow.

Child decided to clear her home and spoke to the nursing home manageress who agreed to help him along with her partner after he convinced them he had the woman’s written permission to do so with a forged letter from her solicitor.

He hired a van and also paid a neighbour of Mrs Heyes to help with the clear out and take items to the tip. During the operation, which took until mid September he took items of her jewellery and about £8,000 worth of cash to her solicitors.

During the trial, Child, claimed that the solicitor and a senior social worker had given him permission to act as he did but they denied this, as did Mrs Heyes.

His temporary work contract ended on September 17 and when his replacement went to the house she was shocked to find the bungalow virtually empty but there was rotting food in the fridge and the premises were not clean.

When Mrs Heyes, who was by then fully recovered, went home she found that all her possessions had gone including her husband’s ashes and a prized Ken Dodd video set.

Child, of The Coach House, Townhead Farm, Houghton, Carlisle, was convicted of three charges of burglary. The jury could not agree on a charge involving her husband’s ashes and the video collection and the judge discharged them from returning a verdict on that offence.

Child claimed that he had acted with permission and believed she was to be evicted because of rent arrears.