Woman spared jail after stealing from 93-year-old she befriended

Newcastle Crown Court
Newcastle Crown Court

A 93-year-old woman moved out of her home and into sheltered accommodation after a "mean" theft by a trusted friend left her devastated and in debt.

The pensioner no longer felt able to live alone after 63-year-old Linda Armstrong helped herself to £1,390 of her cash while posing as a reliable companion.

The court heard that, over a period of ten weeks, Armstrong - who had her victim's bank card to look after - helped herself to the victim's money during 28 cashpoint transactions, taking between £10 and £140 at a time for herself.

Newcastle Crown Court heard it was only when the pensioner's rent went unpaid that she checked her account and realised it had been raided, leaving her overdrawn.

Armstrong, who befriended her victim last April when she offered to carry her bags home from the shops, admitted what she had done and said she was "disgusted and ashamed".

Her lawyer said she committed the theft out of desperation and is "ashamed beyond words" at what she did to her friend.

The victim told police the deception left her feeling insecure in her own home, where she has lived for 30 years, and she had now moved in to sheltered accommodation.

She said in a victim statement: "I feel Linda has stolen my independence".

Armstrong, of Snowdon Grove, West Boldon, who had been given the card by her victim to take care of, admitted theft.

Judge Robert Adams told her: "You succumbed to temptation and started stealing from her. Clearly a habit then developed.

"The initial friendship was a good thing, clearly she benefited from it. Your act of betrayal has clearly effected her very, very significantly and caused her to suffer enormously as a result of what you had done.

"What you have done has shattered her trust in other people.

"Choosing to steal from a 93-year-old who you had befriended was a disgraceful thing to do, which you now accept.

"It was mean offending."

Judge Adams sentenced Armstrong, who has previous convictions for dishonesty more than 20 years ago, to six months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with rehabiliation requirements and 150 hours unpaid work.

The court heard the bank has since refunded the victim's money to her.

Vic Laffey, defending, said Armstrong, who has no remaining family of her own, was struggling financially when she committed the thefts as a result of coming off benefits to start a job.

Mr Laffey said: "She had taken a step that most people would applaud but on the other hand she had lost money.

"She began to spiral into a financial situation which she could no see a way out of because she literally had no-one to turn to.

"She was given a way out of it, a dishonest way out of it and unfortunately she took that.

"She is ashamed beyond words. She had a friend and betrayed the trust of that friend."