A COVENTRY woman who was in ‘dire circumstances’ over loans stole money from a frail 98-year-old she cared for and from the school where she worked as a finance assistant.
But Karen Cooke escaped being jailed when she appeared at Warwick Crown Court after pleading guilty to the thefts.
Cooke (46) of Brinklow Road, Binley, Coventry, was given an eight-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered to carry out 60 hours of unpaid work.
And despite having lost her job at the school as a result of her dishonesty, Recorder Michael Burrows QC ordered her to pay £190 compensation to her 98-year-old victim.
Prosecutor Stuart Clarkson said the old lady, who lived in Kenilworth, had mobility problems because of arthritis, limited hearing and failing eyesight.
She needed daily care and Cooke, who also worked at Bishop Ullathorne School in Coventry, was her carer.
In late January the pensioner’s daughter was visiting, and checked her mother’s purse in which there was £60 in cash.
After Cooke had made her visit and left, the daughter checked the purse again – and found there was only £30.
Cooke was the only person who could have taken it, so two weeks later the victim’s daughter carried out similar checks before and after a visit by Cooke.
There had been £90 in the purse before Cooke arrived – and £60 of it was missing after she left.
The police were contacted, and when Cooke was arrested she admitted taking money on both occasions and also confessed to having stolen another £100 from the old lady.
Her car was searched, and officers found empty envelopes from Bishop Ullathorne School which should have contained various amounts totaling £590 for ‘exam resits and the like.’
When the police asked Cooke about the empty envelopes, she offered no explanation, but later admitted both thefts.
In a statement the 98-year-old said: “I can’t stop thinking about what happened. I am finding it difficult to trust people, which is especially difficult because I need assistance from carers who I have to trust.”
Paul O’Keefe, defending, said: “This is a lady without previous convictions who, for the past five years, has been relying on loans from various companies to maintain a certain standard of living, which is not a high one.
“She has grown-up children to whom she still feels an obligation. One is 26, and she’s been taking out loans to pay for a motorcycle for him.
“She has been unable to pay off one loan, so was having to take out another loan to pay that off, and so on.
“She was being chased for payments and could not find any other source of income over and above the £1100-a-month take-home at the school and about £100 a week caring for the elderly lady.”
Mr O’Keefe said Cooke and her teenage daughter lived with her mother, who she was paying for their keep as well as helping her two adult sons with their rent and the like.
Sentencing Cooke, Recorder Burrows told her: “Instead of caring for her you stole from her. I regard that as a gross breach of trust.
“.. Your offences are about as base and low as they could be.
“But I take into account that you have no previous convictions, your mental condition, and that you have a 16-year-old daughter. It seems I can just suspend the sentence.”