My mother’s carer left like our jus­tice sys­tem

Broad­caster LIZ KER­SHAW re­veals how a trusted cleaner stole thou­sands of pounds and fam­ily heir­looms from her house­bound mother Eileen Pickup but she has been al­lowed to walk free from court be­cause of pre­vi­ous ‘good char­ac­ter’

Sunday Express - - SYMPATHY FOR MEGHAN -

LAST month Claire Louise Davis of Rochdale pleaded guilty to help­ing her­self to thou­sands of pounds from my mother’s bank ac­count. I was told she was be­ing pros­e­cuted for steal­ing £72,000. But some­thing went on to which I, the next of kin to the vic­tim, who ac­tu­ally de­tected the crime and then re­ported it to the po­lice, am not privy so I still don’t know why the amount was re­duced to £20,000 in court.

What­ever. Claire Davis, 45, walked free from Burn­ley Crown Court af­ter the judge ac­cepted she was ashamed and that she had writ­ten let­ters of apol­ogy to my mum Eileen and me.

Re­ally? Let­ters? We’ve not had any let­ters. Per­haps they’ve got “lost” in the post. Af­ter all, things did seem to go miss­ing when she was around.

Davis was first wel­comed into my mum’s home about 10 years ago when, on the rec­om­men­da­tion of the next door neigh­bour, she started work­ing as a cleaner. At the time my mum and her hus­band Ron were shar­ing their dream home, a cosy stone barn con­ver­sion on the edge of the moors over­look­ing Rochdale.

Both were coun­cil­lors and had met at meet­ings. Ron was a wi­d­ower and when my mum split up from her longterm part­ner they mar­ried in 1997. Be­fore long they’d both re­tired com­fort­ably on pen­sions but con­tin­ued to be ac­tive in pub­lic life.

My mum fi­nally re­tired as a coun­cil­lor in 2015 af­ter 50 years, hav­ing been a mayor three times. She was hon­oured by Lan­cashire County Coun­cil and wore her Al­der­man’s “gold medal” with pride when she and Ron at­tended civic events.

But in 2014 Ron’s chronic di­a­betes caused life chang­ing com­pli­ca­tions and he was taken into a nurs­ing home leav­ing my mum, now 80, liv­ing alone for the first time in her life.

By now she’d de­vel­oped se­ri­ous health is­sues her­self, mak­ing her less mo­bile so she be­gan to rely on help around the house and for trans­port. So Davis be­came her per­sonal carer. She was not vet­ted or li­censed.

My mum had known her now for many years and treated her as a mem­ber of the fam­ily. Both through pol­i­tics and in the pas­toral role of a head teacher, my mum has al­ways fought for the rights and well-be­ing of the less for­tu­nate.

Davis seemed to work “hard” for my mum for a cou­ple of years I’ll give her that. And then I no­ticed lit­tle ev­i­dence of any ef­fort at all be­ing made to keep the house clean. Or even tidy. Some­times it was quite shock­ing but I won’t em­bar­rass my mum by go­ing into grim de­tails. Let’s just say mum had a dog and couldn’t take him out.

When I would point this out to my mum she al­ways got very de­fen­sive. When I’d ask what ex­actly Davis did for 20 hours a week I’d get told I had a nasty sus­pi­cious mind and that it was none of my busi­ness.

But it was. My mum and her home seemed ne­glected to me. The idea of stay­ing there was re­pel­lent. I seemed to spend my vis­its clean­ing and shop­ping when I should have been chat­ting to my mum. I wanted to un­der­stand why. I also wanted to un­der­stand why my mum, who still had all her mar­bles, kept los­ing things. Like the new iPad she’d only bought a few weeks ago. Or the huge an­tique gold locket my dad had bought her one Christ­mas when I was a child. He’d taken me with him to buy it. I can still re­mem­ber the ex­cite­ment of that day out in Manch­ester.

CYN­I­CAL: Claire Davis pleaded guilty to theft at Burn­ley Crown Court

obliv­i­ous to the theft and died in Peter­bor­ough City Hos­pi­tal four days later on Oc­to­ber 12.

Mrs Banks’ only son Jim de­scribed the crime as “ap­palling”.

He said: “This stolen money would mean noth­ing to my poor mum be­cause she has died now but if this hap­pened to an­other el­derly per­son it would com­pletely de­stroy their liveli­hood.

“I want who­ever did this The pre­cious me­mories of which al­ways flooded back to me when­ever she wore it. It must have been worth £1,000 in scrap gold alone. Never mind the sen­ti­men­tal value of a trea­sured item with pho­tos of her two chil­dren that she’d worn for 40 years. All gone. So were the slip­pers she’d bought me for Christ­mas and a ring she wanted to give me. There was the new car she bought in 2015. “Oh Claire’s taken it.

“She keeps it at her house so she can run er­rands for me,” my mum said with­out mak­ing eye con­tact. I didn’t know where to turn.

Then in 2016 my mum’s GP de­cided she needed home vis­its from a care agency. He wanted peo­ple call­ing by to help her with meals and med­i­ca­tion. He was sur­prised to hear Davis was her morn­ing carer, com­pan­ion and, er, cleaner but he ar­ranged for agency staff to come in the af­ter­noons, evenings and when Davis was on hol­i­day – which she reg­u­larly was at my mum’s car­a­van with her fam­ily (I thought she had no­body?!)

Be­cause Davis was now treated as “like a daugh­ter to me”. My mother, who has al­ways been known for not minc­ing her words, seemed ter­ri­fied to say any­thing that might up­set her. “Oh don’t say that El­iz­a­beth. What would I do with­out her?”

In­deed. Davis groomed my mum with sob sto­ries, cyn­i­cal flat­tery and false af­fec­tion. The judge char­ac­terised her as: “Mean spir­ited, self­ish and cruel.” He was right. Her theft from my mum wasn’t spon­ta­neous. It was ruth­less. She didn’t just take a few quid just when my mum left her purse out. For at least 15 months she helped her­self from my mum’s bank ac­count. Some­times £550 a day in cash. With the card my mother gave her to get a bit of food for her­self. And her beloved lit­tle dog Char­lie.

But in late 2016 I was con­tacted, as my mum’s next of kin, by so­cial ser­vices. My mum’s bank had not paid out on stand­ing or­ders for car­ers be­cause there were no funds avail­able.

Hang on? What about my mum’s pen­sion? Ron had died and she was get­ting his too. There should be plenty of money in her ac­count. She never went out to spend any­thing.

My mum couldn’t find any bank state­ments. “Oh Claire takes care of all that”. And Bar­clays Bank wouldn’t deal with me. Client con­fi­den­tial­ity and data pro­tec­tion ruled supreme.

At Christ­mas 2016 my mum rang me sob­bing. Davis had quit her job say­ing she had too much other work.

In early 2017 a meet­ing was con­vened with the fam­ily and so­cial work­ers at my mum’s house. Davis “just hap­pened” to turn up. The so­cial work­ers asked her about bank state­ments. She went into the other room and re­turned to say she couldn’t find any. “Eileen (my mum) must have thrown them all away,” she said.

It took a few months to per­suade my now house­bound mum to ven­ture out to Bar­clays Bank Rochdale with me. With her autho­ri­sa­tion, we got bank state­ments back to Fe­bru­ary 2016. Why had this new ac­count even been opened af­ter 65 years of be­ing a York­shire Bank cus­tomer? Only Davis knows that.

The state­ments showed that from an open­ing bal­ance of £86,000 and with over £2,000 a month pen­sion go­ing in each month for 15 months (so say £30,000), there was just £9,000 left. For some months there were pages and pages of with­drawals. In one month £13,000 of trans­ac­tions that my mother couldn’t recog­nise had been taken out.

I took this wad of pa­per home and spent 10 solid hours comb­ing through it to for­mu­late a spread­sheet with col­umns for types of ex­pen­di­ture.

Take­aways (McDon­ald’s etc) Restau­rants (Pizza Hut etc)

Shops (JD Sports, Hal­fords etc) Su­per­mar­kets (on Christ­mas Eve for £120 when my mum wasn’t host­ing for Christ­mas)

Petrol (a full tank three times a week when mum was house bound)

A brand new elec­tric fan oven just be­fore Christ­mas 2016. Was it for my mum? Was it hell.

Cash from ATMs = £36,000!

On May 19, 2017 I found my­self in a rather shabby in­ter­view room at Burn­ley Po­lice Sta­tion. I made a com­plaint and gave the PC an or­gan­ised in­dexed folder of my spread­sheets. He com­pli­mented me on my foren­sic ev­i­dence and took a state­ment.

“Sorry we wont be able to as­sign a de­tec­tive to this un­for­tu­nately. They’re all busy with his­toric sex abuse cases. We had that Ken Bar­low in here you know” he boasted. I pointed out that he was a TV soap char­ac­ter, not real. And left.

It took 18 months, two com­plaints to the Lan­cashire Con­stab­u­lary, one from me and one from my mum’s MP to the Chief Con­sta­ble, a writ­ten apol­ogy from the Force that my mum was not “served well by Lan­cashire Po­lice” and the re­place­ment of one of­fi­cer to get any­thing done. Davis was fi­nally ar­rested, charged with steal­ing £72,000 and ap­peared in court on Novem­ber 12.

Af­ter try­ing to blame me for steal­ing my mum’s money she fi­nally pleaded guilty at the 11th hour on Mon­day, Novem­ber 19. Af­ter a long dis­cus­sion with her (le­gal aid-funded) de­fence

SHAT­TERED: Liz’s mother Eileen

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