A WOMAN who tried to cash a cheque for some rogue traders after they fleeced a 91-year-old woman has walked free from court.

Kayleigh Hemmings acted as banker for the men who charged the frail old lady £650 for cutting down a bush, then altered the cheque to read £6,500.

But staff at the victim’s bank were suspicious when the 20-year-old phoned asking when the money would be cleared for her to withdraw.

Claire Marlow, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court how two men called on the home of Beryl Jarvis in Penhill Drive last September. “They asked if she needed any gardening work and she said she had a bush needed cutting in her back garden,” she said.

After doing the work they told her it would be £650 and she wrote out the cheque to that value, but at their request left the ‘payee’ section blank.

Miss Marlow said on October 4 Hemmings paid in the cheque, which had been made out in her name and altered to read £6,500.

A week later she contacted the branch to ask whether it had cleared and the money was ready to withdraw.

“The bank became suspicious, they contacted the police,” Miss Marlow said.“She had said the cheque came from an aunty in a birthday card from the north. They knew Mrs Jarvis was one of their customers in Swindon.”

When she was questioned she said she had returned to her flat from the shops when two men she didn’t know asked her to cash a cheque, and she agreed. She told officers she didn’t know how her name got on to the cheque or who had altered it.

Miss Marlow said that though the bank had paid back most of the cash they believed the £650 had been correctly put into her account.

“The Crown would say the amount was a fraudulent amount made out by the gardeners, whoever they were,” Miss Marlow said.

Hemmings, of Sheldon Road, Chippenham, pleaded guilty to a money laundering charge.

Edward Hetherington, defending, said: “This is a morally repugnant and reprehensible course of events. The papers and common sense show Miss Hemmings played a secondary role. It was the men who did the work which was not of the standard charged.

“She was presented with the cheque as she had a bank account. She agreed knowing the cheque was not legitimate.”

He said his client suffered ‘a number of cognitive difficulties’ and had been in an unhealthy relationship, which is now at an end.

She is now due to move to accommodation in Devizes where there will be a limit on the amount of visitors.

Passing sentence Nicholas Atkinson QC said: “You may not have known who the victim was but you have acknowledged through your counsel that you have to pay this lady back.”

He imposed three months’ jail, suspended for a year, with 80 hours of unpaid work, 12 months of supervision, and £650 compensation.