Carer stole from my grieving mother-in-law

carer stole from nan

by take-a-break |
Updated on

My elderly mother-in-law was happy when a trusted neighbour offered to help care for her husband. But what was this woman really after? By Eileen Fowler, 55

carer stole from gran

I carried a tray of mugs through to the living room and set them on the table.

‘Here we go,’ I said. ‘Teas all round.’

Every couple of weeks my husband Alan and I visited his parents, Agnes and Dan.

They were both in their 80s now, and Dan had suffered a stroke that had left him paralysed down his left side and in a wheelchair.

Agnes had hired carers to help look after him. They came in daily to help him get washed and dressed. But despite this, I’d noticed on the last few visits that Dan looked quite unkempt, and it had got me worried.

‘Are those carers still not bucking up their act?’ I said to Agnes now. ‘They haven’t been looking after him properly for a while.’

‘I know — I’m going to let them go,’ she replied.

‘Who’ll look after Dad then?’ asked Alan.

‘Margaret from downstairs,’ Agnes explained. ‘She looks after a few other people around here. I trust her.’

Alan’s parents lived in a top-floor flat, while Margaret was at the bottom. They’d been neighbours for a few years.

It was reassuring to know that if Dan needed urgent help, she could be there in seconds.

After we’d left, Alan said: ‘I’ve never met Margaret, but Mum’s only ever said nice things about her.’

‘Me neither, but it’s good she’s nearby,’ I replied.

carer stole from nan

Alan, aged 45, had three brothers, Billy, 61, Jim, 60, and David, 57.

All of them led busy lives and none of us could check on Dan as much as we’d like.

So we were all relieved to hear Agnes singing Margaret’s praises as soon as she hired her.

‘She takes him to get cash out when he wants to meet his friends down the pub,’ Agnes said. ‘He’s got more freedom now.’

‘That’s great,’ I replied.

When we met Margaret ourselves on one of our regular visits, she seemed friendly.

Time passed and the arrangement appeared to be working. We were happy that Agnes had found someone she felt comfortable with.

Then one day, Agnes said: ‘Dan’s bank card has gone missing. He must have mislaid it.’

But I thought: That’s not like him.

Then, the next time we visited, Agnes told us her bank card had vanished too.

'It wasn't there earlier, I swear'

‘I’ve turned the place over but I can’t find it,’ she said.

Margaret was in the kitchen cleaning and Agnes called out to her.

‘Have you seen my bank card, Margaret?’ she asked.

‘No I haven’t. Sorry!’ she replied.

I tried to reassure Agnes it would turn up, and when we were back home later that day, she called and said she’d searched her purse again and found it.

‘It wasn’t there earlier, I swear,’ she said.

‘Well, I’m glad it’s turned up,’ I replied.

But something about what had happened troubled me and a thought flashed into my head.

Could Margaret have taken it? I wondered.

I felt bad for thinking it. She’d only ever been polite and friendly, so it was hard to imagine she’d do something so despicable.

And the mystery of the bank cards went out of all of our minds when, a month on, Dan, 88, sadly passed away.

carer stole from gran

Agnes was devastated. They’d been married for 68 years. But as we helped her arrange the funeral, she was good at putting on a brave face.

‘I’ve got to get on with things,’ she told me.

After the funeral service, a wake had been organised at the local pub.

Agnes, Alan and his brothers wanted to go together, so I said I’d meet them there.

As I headed to my car, Margaret appeared and said: ‘Can I have a lift, please?’

‘Of course, hop in,’ I replied.

During the 20-minute journey, she didn’t say a word.

That’s odd, I thought. She normally talks for England.

'They think it could be fraud'

But it was a sad day for us all, so I didn’t blame her for not being her usual self.

A week later, I popped round on my own to check on Agnes and she was peering at some bank statements on the coffee table.

‘That’s not right,’ she mumbled.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.

‘I need to sort out Dan’s direct debits and I’ve just noticed something odd,’ she said. ‘I took out some cash from the machine the other day, but it came out twice.’

I sat down next to her to have a look.

Sure enough, it showed that every time she’d withdrawn £250, another transaction went out later for the same amount.

Sifting through the paperwork, I realised it had been going on for months. It had happened with other smaller cash withdrawals too.

‘It must be a glitch. The bank will sort it out for you,’ I said.

Agnes called Alan’s brother, Jim, who agreed to take her to the bank to see if they could help.

Back home in Fife, I told Alan what had happened.

Then Jim called later to say they’d told Agnes to go to the police.

‘They think it could be fraud,’ he told me.

carer stole from gran

‘What!’ I said.

Who would steal from an 87-year-old woman — especially a widow?

But then I remembered what had crossed my mind when the bank cards vanished — and I felt sick.

The only other person with access to Agnes and Dan’s bank cards was Margaret.

Agnes must’ve had the same suspicion, because later on she called us with some news.

‘I asked Margaret to come over and she broke down straightaway, admitting to stealing our money,’ she said.

Alan’s face went practically beetroot with rage.

‘What a nasty piece of work!’ he said.

‘I put Dan’s bank card in one of the cupboards, but she’s been taking it,’ Agnes added.

‘I can’t believe it. She’s been your carer for six years,’ I replied.

I wondered how much of that time she’d been stealing from them.

Our daughter Emma was close to her grandma, and she was so upset when we told her.

A few days later, police arrested Margaret.

‘She confessed to stealing the money when they took her down to the station,’ Alan told me.

We found out then that she’d been doing it for the past 10 months.

carer stole from gran

But the most sickening part was that she’d withdrawn money from Dan’s account on the day of his funeral.

So on the day that Agnes had to say farewell to her husband, that woman was still stealing from her. And she’d had the cheek to show herself at the funeral too.

Agnes was shocked but she tried to remain positive.

‘I’m not fussed about the money. It’s gone now,’ she said.

‘But it’s the principle of it. She took advantage of your trust,’ I replied.

As the police investigation continued, we realised Margaret must’ve seen Dan’s PIN when she’d taken him to the cash machine. They discovered she’d stolen a total of £11,800.

Margaret was charged with theft, and as we waited for the case to go to court, Agnes called us with some good news.

‘The bank have given me all the money back!’ she said.

‘That’s great,’ we replied.

In time, Margaret McPhail, 62, of Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court and admitted one count of theft.

The court heard that when Agnes confronted her, she’d told her: ‘I snapped, my head is all over the place. I don’t remember any of it.’

She escaped jail but was ordered to pay £2500 in compensation and was put on a tag for nine months, keeping her indoors between 7pm and 7am. Margaret will also be under the supervision of a social worker for three years.

‘Where’s the justice in that?’ Alan said.

‘It’s ridiculous,’ I agreed.

The thought of her being free was sickening, And I thought her claim that she didn’t remember any of it was utter rubbish.

To me, she was a callous, manipulative woman who’d preyed on two vulnerable old people who had trusted her — and that’s unforgivable.

Sadly, Agnes passed away last month at the age of 90, after suffering a perforated bowel.

She was always such a kind, trusting person and we miss her terribly.

I just hope Margaret never gets the chance to take advantage of another vulnerable, elderly person. That woman doesn’t have a caring bone in her body.

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