Great grandad's bungalow dream shattered when daughter stole cash and bought the property herself

The Prosecutor said the daughter and her partner refused to allow the man access to his cash and acted as if the money was theirs to spend. 
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A great-grandad's dream to own his own home was shattered when his trusted daughter and her husband stole cash he had for a bungalow and bought a house they ended up living in themselves. 

William Gaunt, who had lived in rented homes all his life, received a £150,000 compensation payout in 2009 after a road crash that left him badly injured and unable to manage stairs. 

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The pensioner, now 77, planned to use the money to buy a bungalow and trusted his daughter Lorraine Ross, a former tax credit fraud investigator turned counsellor, to help. 

But the court heard she and her husband Stuart Ross convinced Mr Gaunt to hand over the money to them and bought an unsuitable house in Washington, Tyne and Wear, with stairs, which the pensioner did not like or want but reluctantly agreed to move in to. 

Prosecutor Matthew Hopkins said the couple refused to allow Mr Gaunt access to his cash and acted as if the money was theirs to spend. 

Just four years after he received the payout, the pensioner was back in rented accommodation and the couple remortgaged then moved into the house that was bought in Stuart Ross's name, with Mr Gaunt's money. 

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At Newcastle Crown Court on Monday, March 11 Lorraine and Stuart Ross were convicted of theft after a trial. 

Lorraine Ross was also convicted of fraud in relation to a housing benefit application she made in relation to the house, which stated Mr Gaunt was a tenant there. 

They will be sentenced in June. 

Mr Gaunt, who gave evidence during the trial, told the court: "I wanted to buy a bungalow so I could do away with the stairs and steps. She said 'I will try and find you one'. 

"Lorraine said I would lose my pension if I paid that money into my account."

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The pensioner said he believed his daughter would use the money to buy a bungalow for him, in his name, but ended up in a house he did not want. 

He told the court he was not happy in the house they bought and added: "I didn't like the stairs." Mr Hopkins had told jurors Mr Gaunt had been renting homes his "whole life" and wanted to use the compensation money to buy a bungalow, so turned to his daughter to help.

Mr Hopkins told the court: "She convinced him to pay £140,000 of the compensation money into her partner Stuart Ross's bank account. 

"She said it would make it easier for her to help find him the bungalow if he did that. 

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"Once in the bank account, they would not let him have access to his own money. They wouldn't give him a debit card to withdraw the money himself from the account.

"What they did do was buy him a house in Washington and used the compensation money to pay for it. They purchased it in March 2010 for the sum of £90,000. 

"They didn't ask him if he wanted that house. The Crown say they didn't ask him because they knew he wouldn't want it, it was not a bungalow. He moved in in around April 2010."

The court heard Stuart Ross was listed at the owner of the property and Lorraine Ross applied for housing benefit in her dad's name stating he was a tenant renting the house. 

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Lorraine Ross sent a letter to Sunderland Council asking if the housing benefit could be paid to the owner Stuart Ross rather than her dad but the request was refused. 

When the pensioner said he was uncomfortable receiving benefits for a house he believed he owned, Lorraine Ross threatened him that he would get into trouble with the police if he paid it back. 

Mr Hopkins added: "Sometimes she would ask the complainant if she could lend money for specific items like a new car or new bathroom even though, the Crown say, she never had any intention of paying it back. 

"Other times, she and her partner would simply withdraw money from the ATM without even asking for permission to do so, acting as if the money was essentially theirs.

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"The Crown say in this case they stole it from him and used it in ways he never agreed to." 

The court heard the house was "totally unsuitable" for the pensioner and his medical needs and in April 2013 he moved into a rented bungalow. 

In 2013 the pensioner asked for and was given £10,000 of the compensation money. 

Meanwhile, the couple remortgaged the house they had originally bought for the pensioner and moved into it themselves "completely without asking". 

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Mr Hopkins said the pensioner eventually got hold of Stuart Ross's debit card and started withdrawing his compensation money out of ATMs. 

In 2019 another family member involved the police. 

Lorraine Ross, 52, of Westward Place, Washington and Stuart Ross, 51, of Waskerley Road, Barmston, Washington both denied the charges. 

Lorraine Ross told police her dad had asked her to look after the money to keep it safe and she bought the house with his full knowledge and consent.

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She claimed she was not responsible for the housing benefit application. 

Stuart Ross accepted that the compensation money was paid into his account but insisted the pensioner always had access to it. 

Mr Gaunt was supported in court by his sons Jason and Thomas and Jason's partner Adele. The family said they are relived the case if finally over and justice has been done for their dad. 

They now plan to start a fundraiser to buy Mr Gaunt the bungalow he has wanted.