A man who stole his dying sister's life savings and left her children with no inheritance has walked free from court.
Kevin Hunter, 61, pocketed thousands of pounds belonging to Lynne Purvis while she was seriously ill as a result of being diagnosed with MS ten years earlier.
It was only after the 58-year-old mum died last October that her children realised her bank account had been "reduced to almost nil".
Prosecutors claim over £40,000 was stolen but Hunter, of Whiteleas Way, South Shields, claims the figure was £25,000.
Daughter Michelle Purvis said in a victim statement, part of which was read in court: "My mother would be horrified to find her brother had stolen her money and her children had been left with no inheritance."
Hunter, an accounts department worker, pleaded guilty to theft.
Prosecutor Michael Bunch told Newcastle Crown Court Mrs Purvis had been in care since 2008 because of her health problems and had limited financial needs.
Mr Bunch added: "She died in October last year and it then came to the attention of her children that their mother's bank account, when they approached to deal with probate, was effectively reduced to almost nil."
The court heard a police investigation was launched and it was discovered that £8,5000 had been withdrawn from the account in the last year of Mrs Purvis's
Hunter, who had access to the account, was questioned.
Mr Bunch told the court: "He admitted he had made some withdrawals on her behalf in relation to that amount.
"When asked for the amount , he said it would have been something in the region of £100, against the total withdrawals of £8,500.
"Effectively, he conceded that the balance was used for him for his own purposes, he being in financial difficulties."
The court heard Hunter is a married dad who admitted taking his sister's money to cope with mounting credit card debts.
He has saved up almost £3,000 in a bid to pay back what he took.
Prosecutors have launched an investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act which could result in an order for his family home to be sold so he can pay the money back.
Mr Recorder John Aitken sentenced Hunter, who has never been in trouble before, to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years.
The judge told him: "You pleaded guilty to stealing this money. It was a substantial sum, between £25,000 and £40,000 you took from your late sister while you were handling her bank accounts.
"That was money that would ordinarily have passed on to her relatives.
"I am told you have raised the sum of about £2,900 and that your house has an equity of about £30,000 which is likely to be used in one way or another to satisfy the outstanding amount so all or most will eventually go towards relatives.
"This is a serious offence."