Carer stole from Alzheimer's patients

A WOMAN who stole nearly £5,000 from vulnerable Alzheimer's victims she was supposed to be caring for at an Essex residential home escaped a jail sentence yesterday.

A WOMAN who stole nearly £5,000 from vulnerable Alzheimer's victims she was supposed to be caring for at an Essex residential home escaped a jail sentence yesterday.

Michaela Shears took bankcards and pin numbers from four elderly people at the home run by PentaHact in Beech Aveune, Wivenhoe, and then withdrew money from cashpoints.

The 38-year-old of Coller Road, Parkeston, near Harwich, worked as a team leader caring for the vulnerable adults before she started thieving from them.

Colchester Magistrates' Court was told it would be hard to imagine a more wicked offence because the victims were unable to understand their own finances and put their trust in Shears.

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Prosecuting, Grace Court, said Shears' marriage had ended after years of mental and physical abuse and she was forced into bankruptcy.

Shears used the funds she stole to finance her travel to work and for Christmas expenses but she became so ashamed of her actions that she confessed to police.

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But PentaHact said Shears only resigned and went to the police after she had been questioned about the discrepancies by senior management.

The court heard how Shears' ex-husband had been violent and manipulative and she became addicted to amphetamines and also was on anti-depressants for a number of years.

Shears pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to seven counts of theft between December 2004 and July last year.

Trevor Linn, mitigating, said Shears had brought the case to the attention of the authorities through a sense of “self loathing”.

Shears was sentenced to a total 12 months, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay compensation of £4,900, complete 100 hours community work and pay costs of £138.

District Judge David Cooper said: “You stole from people who were unable to even understand their own finances and at very least must have trusted you to care for them and protect them.”

He added if it had not been for the support of Shears' family, who helped to provide the compensation, she would have gone straight to prison.

A spokeswoman for PentaHact, reiterated that it was its staff who had triggered the enquiry, not Shears.

She said: “We wholeheartedly regret that four people we support were defrauded by one of our staff.

“We have apologised sincerely for the distress that it has caused. This incident came to light because of the vigilance of other staff at the home who reported the matter, resulting in a police enquiry.

“We are confident that this is an exceptional case. It is essential that our staff have the trust and confidence of those whom they support and we are putting new systems in place to help ensure that this does not happen again.

“All our staff undergo stringent reference and criminal records bureau checks before they start work.”

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