Covert cameras were installed at a West Norfolk care home in order to catch a worker stealing money from a 96-year-old resident’s room, magistrates have heard.
Marilyn Preston, 61, was given a suspended jail sentence during a hearing in Lynn on Monday afternoon, having previously pleaded guilty to two charges of theft.
Preston was working as a care assistant at the Gables retirement home in Dersingham when she committed the offences in November and December last year.
And prosecutor Fraser Harold said: “This was a breach of trust theft from an elderly and extremely vulnerable female she was charged with caring for.”
The offences were discovered after resident Jessie Hurst, who has since died, became suspicious money was being taken from her purse shortly after moving to the Post Office Road complex in February 2015.
Mr Harold told the court that, on one occasion, Mrs Hurst, who had moved into the home after a period in hospital following a fall, saw Preston, of Woodwark Avenue, North Lynn, with her purse.
Mrs Hurst had previously hidden it in a plastic rain hood in order to make it more difficult for the thief to take money from her.
Although Mrs Hurst was too afraid to confront Preston directly about what she saw, she did complain about it to her daughter-in-law, who contacted the home’s manager.
In late October, with Mrs Hurst’s agreement, a covert camera was installed in her room in order to record what was happening.
The home’s manager also placed some money into Mrs Hurst’s purse.
But police were alerted when a £5 note was found to be missing from the purse on November 28.
Although the covert camera showed Preston was in the room at the time, she could not be seen to take the money.
Because of that, a second camera was installed in Mrs Hurst’s room, which then captured Preston stealing a further £30 on the afternoon of December 5.
She was arrested by police two days later, but initially denied taking the money.
The court heard she only confessed to what she had done when the camera footage was shown to her.
Roger Glazebrook, mitigating, said his client had been under considerable stress following her husband’s diagnosis with a form of leukaemia 18 months ago for which doctors were still unsure how they could treat.
He pointed out there she had not committed any other offence in 40 years of work in the care industry and that the £30 which was recovered from her car would not have been had she had a purpose for taking it.
He said: “She can’t say why she took the money, but she did take the money.
“I don’t think the way she was feeling can be divorced from what she has done.
“It seems to me this is someone who needs help.”
Preston was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to complete 21 days of rehabilitation activity.
She was also ordered to pay £5 in compensation for the money that was not recovered, plus £85 costs and an £80 victim surcharge.