A FORMER council debt collector who systematically 'rinsed' an old lady's bank account of tens of thousands of pounds has been jailed for 13 months.
Lorraine Bourne abused her power of attorney to use the pensioner's money as her own, plundering her bank account until she was 'virtually penniless'.
And the daughter of the victim told the court how she felt the 59-year-old had shown no remorse for what she did to her mum, who died before she could see justice.
In a powerful victim personal statement Gail Harding told how her mum struggled to believe that the woman she trusted had stolen from her.
She said Kathleen Simmonds, who was in her mid 80s, had so little money left that towards the end she could not even afford to buy Christmas cards.
"Not only was she robbed of her money, of her life when she was still here, she was robbed of her dignity," she told the court.
"Lorraine spent my mum's money on herself, her children and her grandchildren, giving them everything they needed and wanted.
"My mum should have been relaxing, spending her late years in life spending her money how she wanted.
"I also feel Lorraine has shown no remorse at all. This has taken nearly three years to get to this stage. Life has been hell for me. And my mum isn't here to see this day.
"I promised her I would do my best. That is why I am here reading this out: it is the least thing I could do for my mum. After this I shall go to the grave and tell her what's happened.
"My hope to God is that lady can sit down and think what she did to my mum. My mum died, I am convinced, because of the worry and she destroyed me."
Earlier Sarah Jones, prosecuting, told how Bourne met her victim as she worked collecting care payments for the council.
After befriending the old lady, who was at the time estranged from Mrs Harding, she was granted power of attorney and had a bank card for her account.
While she spent some money on Mrs Simmonds, buying her toiletries and biscuits, she also used vast sums for herself and her family.
She used the card for upgrades to the homes of and her and her daughter Louise as well as going on spending sprees and even paying their council tax bills.
Entries from her diary told how she was splashing out on her daughter where she wrote 'Lou expects me to pay for everything'.
Bourne also used some of the money to pay the care fees of another man, who has also since died, who paid in cash which she was also taking.
"Over all, there was a pattern of rinsing the account," Miss Jones said.
Bourne, of Pheasant Close, Covingham, pleaded guilty to fraud between October 2012 and July 2014 and false accounting in the three years to January 2014.
She had denied the allegations for months, saying the woman wanted her to have the money, but changed her pleas on the day of trial.
Chris Smyth, defending, said she had taken £49,000 but insisted £7,5000 was paid back into the victim's account and a further £14,499 was paid in wages to his client.
He said that she was in ill health, going through financial problems at the time, and very sorry for what she had done to the lady who she cared for.
"It appears once she had the cards she was unable to resist the temptation to spend the money on herself, but probably had no idea it got to the level it did," he said.
Jailing her Judge Tim Mousley QC said: "For a period of 18 months ending in the middle of 2014 you systematically defrauded Kathleen Simmonds leaving her virtually penniless.
"She was quite obviously an extremely vulnerable person and she became more so over the period you defrauded her.
"You took gross advantage of an elderly and frail lady for whom you were supposed to be caring.
"Over time your intentions changed and you set about removing money from her accounts and any attempts you made to stop what you were doing was short lived.
"You became responsible for her affairs under a power of attorney and that is an indication of the abuse of trust that you exercised on her.
"The effect on Mrs Simmonds, the impact upon her is very clear. I have said she was elderly and frail. That must have been obvious to you.
"I am satisfied you knew exactly what you were doing and despite the various health problems you had and have you must have been thinking clearly and Mrs Simmond's deteriorating quality of life must have been obvious to you.
"And I am also satisfied it must have crossed your mind on occasions what would happen if you got caught out.
"As Mrs Simmond's quality of life deteriorated your quality of life improved. In essence what you were doing was treating her money as if it were your own.
"I accept that you have expressed a degree of remorse but it was expressed very late on in the proceedings and it doesn't lie comfortably with your persisting of nor guilty pleas till very late on."
Her friend Dennis Boorman, 63, of Midwinter Gardens, Stratton, admitted a money laundering offence and was ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.