Woman befriended wheelchair-using neighbour (87) before stealing cash in ‘absolutely despicable’ crime

A WOMAN who befriended and then stole cash from a vulnerable 87-year-old neighbour who uses a wheelchair, has been given a suspended jail term for “absolutely despicable behaviour”.

Avril Baird (73), of Landsdale Park, Ballymoney, appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court for sentencing after previously pleading guilty to a theft charge.

Between September 2018 and February this year she admitted taking £120.

The court heard after Baird was snared by a spy-cam put in by the victim’s family who suspected money was going missing.

The camera caught the defendant removing money from the victim’s purse on a number of occasions.

The prosecutor said the amounts taken were small but that the number of occasions were “quite numerous”.

Eventually the victim’s son called in police.

Defence barrister Michael Smyth said the defendant was present in the woman’s home as a “friend, visitor and assistant” and although the neighbour “authorised” her to take money for things like groceries and “work around the house” Baird accepted she had “stepped over the line”.

The lawyer said the defendant was probably one of the more elderly people to be before a court but she had a previously clear record and was “very remorseful”.

He said Baird had given in to “temptation” and “once the first £10 note was taken it was very hard to resist the temptation to do it again”.

Mr Smyth accepted it was a “breach of trust” and the defendant had brought £120 restitution to the court.

He said Baird had previously worked as a nurse in her younger days and the offending was an “avoidable stain on an otherwise clear record and clear career”.

District Judge Peter King said a pre-sentence report underlined everything Mr Smyth had said about the defendant’s “previously good character”.

He said there were “clearly suspicions” regarding Baird but the only matter able to be proven involved £120.

The judge said: “A vulnerable lady was befriended and then had her money stolen”.

Judge King said the incidents were of “huge concern” and had the defendant been younger and in better health he would have jailed her for her “absolutely despicable behaviour” but he suspended a six months sentence for three years.

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