Physician allegedly swindled widow

A CONSULTANT physician swindled a wealthy 86-year-old widow out of cash, valuable works of art and her Essex home, the General Medical Council has heard.

By Roddy Ashworth

A CONSULTANT physician swindled a wealthy 86-year-old widow out of cash, valuable works of art and her Essex home, the General Medical Council has heard.

Dr David Read, based at the Turner Rise Consulting Rooms in Colchester, abused his position of trust to manipulate “confused and vulnerable” pensioner Peggy Marsh, it was claimed yesterday .

Read had offered to help Mrs Nash, from Frinton, with her financial affairs after the death of her husband, the panel was told.

But it is claimed that in less than two years he plundered £69,500 from her bank account and removed a rare Elizabeth Frink statue from the widow's home - which he allegedly sold for £49,000 - as well as a painting by war artist John Piper.

It was only when Mrs Nash's carer suspected the doctor had been dipping into her savings that the alleged dishonesty came to light.

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Heather Norton, for the GMC, said: “Peggy Nash is a wealthy but elderly lady. In recent years her mental health deteriorated quite significantly.

“Within weeks of her appointment, carer Maureen Farrance became concerned about Read's relationship with Mrs Nash, especially with her financial affairs.”

After a spell in hospital in 2003, Mrs Nash's abilities deteriorated, so that by the end of 2004 she required “significant” levels of care, Ms Norton said.

Throughout that time Read continued to visit her at her home and he began to take part in areas of Mrs' Nash's life that were beyond her medical condition, the panel was told.

“In January 2004 she changed her will. A new will was drawn up by her solicitor in which she left the bulk of her estate and home to Read. He was aware of this,” Ms Norton claimed.

She also said that when asked to return the missing artwork, Read had said they had been unconditional gifts.

Giving evidence at yesterday's hearing, carer Mrs Farrance said Read arranged for her to look after Mrs Nash in December 2004.

She said she found the pensioner vacant when she first met her. “If she had company she became a different person who could communicate but she could not deal with any problems at all.”

Mrs Farrance, 64, said Mrs Nash had asked her to look at some of her bank statements because she was concerned about some of the transactions.

“She was agitated and did not understand why she was getting letters from the bank,” she said.

“I also had a look at some of the chequebook stubs as well. They were written out to Dr Read and his wife Cilla. I was already concerned about Dr Read.”

She added that he had initially blamed artwork going missing from the house on a gardener, but later denied saying this when Mrs Farrance repeated his allegation to Mrs Nash's power of attorney.

Mrs Nash's GP, Dr Michael Beardmore, said there had been a “steady deterioration” in the pensioner's mental health throughout 2004.

Ciaran Coonan, defending Read, asked Mr Beardmore whether the medication she was taking could cause sedation and a confused state.

“No, I don't agree it causes confusion and in Peggy's case it did not cause sedation,” he replied.

Dr Read admits that he regularly visited Mrs Nash at her Frinton home and that he accepted cheques payable on her account for £69,500. He also admits removing the artwork from her home.

But he denies being made aware, on or before January 27, 2004, that Mrs Nash had arranged to revise her will making him the residual beneficiary of her estate, directing that her house be gifted to him.

He further denies that Mrs Nash's mental capacity was diminished and deteriorated throughout 2004 and 2005 as a result of her physical illness.

And he denies assuming responsibility of Mrs Nash's financial affairs between January 2003 and February 2005.

His accusers claim Dr Read's fitness to practice is impaired as he acted dishonestly, inappropriately and abused his professional position.

The hearing continues.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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