Wife stole paralysed husband's pay-out
THE wife of a paralysed soldier who stole his insurance payout as he lay in hospital has been spared jail.Lianne Smith, 24, from Harwich, admitted plundering nearly £20,000 from 22-year-old Jonathan Noble's bank account after he received £200,000 following a civilian road crash - just three weeks after they married.
THE wife of a paralysed soldier who stole his insurance payout as he lay in hospital has been spared jail.
Lianne Smith, 24, from Harwich, admitted plundering nearly £20,000 from 22-year-old Jonathan Noble's bank account after he received £200,000 following a civilian road crash - just three weeks after they married.
As her husband lay in hospital being treated, Smith, who held power of attorney, helped herself to cash intended to pay for his continuing care, tiding him over until a larger sum was received, Reading Crown Court heard yesterday .
Among her spending was a holiday to Fiji with another man and taking eight friends to Portugal to see England play at the Euro 2004 football tournament.
Although she admitted five counts of theft, totalling £19,700, eight further counts - an additional £40,000 - were left on file.
Some £60,000 was spent consensually by the pair after Mr Noble's accident in September 2003.
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The court heard how Smith's excessive spending was done in the hope that a further insurance payout of up to £5million was on its way.
Yesterday, Judge Stanley Spence imposed an 18-month jail term on Smith, of Harwich, but suspended it for a period of two years.
He said the exceptional circumstances of the case enabled him to do this.
"This was a series of offences borne of a total tragedy which wrecked a very recent marriage which you and your husband took along with great delight," the judge said.
"After that awful event, you clearly devoted a very great deal of time visiting and caring for that poor man as he lay in hospital, a tetraplegic.”
He accepted that Smith's behaviour was an attempt to escape from the pressure of being sole carer for her husband.
Smith married Mr Noble on August 14, 2003. At the time the couple were living in Army accommodation in Colchester.
On September 7, Mr Noble was travelling back to base as a passenger in a car when he suffered his appalling injuries in a crash. He spent many months being treated in the spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
A rented flat in Aylesbury was arranged for his wife so she could be closer to him.
The £200,000 sum was paid to Mr Noble from a private insurance policy he took out for personal injury.
A further compensation payment from the Motor Insurance Bureau, which he expects to be between £3 million and £5 million, is yet to be agreed on.
At court, Stuart Alford, prosecuting, said: "The Crown do not consider her response to that [the accident] to be excusable, but there is sympathy for the situation she found herself in.”
By August 2004, after Smith's spending spree, there was just £7,000 left of her husband's payout.
Mr Alford added: "Without any of the £200,000 to back him up, Mr Noble is now in some difficulty.”
In the initial aftermath of his accident, Mr Noble bought his wife an Audi A3 car and agreed to a £5,000 breast enlargement for her. He also agreed to her buying clothes. In all, £60,000 was spent legitimately.
But as Smith's visits to her husband became less and less frequent, her spending escalated out of control.
Two more cars were bought, while drinks parties, foreign trips and loans of up to £10,000 to friends became the order of the day.
Mr Noble became suspicious when he saw a bank statement in August 2004 which showed his funds were far lower than expected.
The next month, Smith visited him in hospital and came clean about her double life. She was arrested the following month.
Martin Hooper, for Smith, said she could not cope with caring for her husband and that her spending had been a desperate bid to escape.
Smith, who has a child from another relationship, is currently getting divorced and now works part-time as a barmaid.
Mr Hooper added: "It would be glib to say that what she did was straightforward retail therapy but rather a form of escapism.
"She had a bright future ahead of her. What happened what happened was tragic.”