Tue, 22 May 2018
A MAN and a woman pleaded guilty to stealing money from a man who lay dying in hospital.
Sonja Chivers, 47, of Copnor Close, Woolton Hill, and Morris Chistopher Feane, 53, of Fox’s Lane, Penwood, were in the dock at Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
They had each previously denied two counts of theft by writing cheques using Ronald Thompson’s chequebook when he was in hospital, but changed their plea to guilty minutes before the trial was due to start.
James Burnham, prosecuting, said: “They [the defendants] have had advice from counsel today and have done the right thing, but had they had advice sooner they would have done the right thing sooner.”
Mr Thompson, 80, was taken into hospital on December 10 last year with a urinary infection.
He died on February 21 from organ failure.
Mr Burnham said: “While he was in hospital, the defendants had access to his house with a key.
“They wrote a total of four cheques – two each – in their names.
“The gentleman was in hospital pretty well unable to communicate successfully with the family, and not in a position to deal with and protect his financial affairs whilst in hospital.”
Mrs Chivers cashed cheques to a total of £214 and Mr Feane to a total of £305.
In total, £519 was stolen from Mr Thompson’s account.
Mr Burnham added: “The bank have not helped matters.
“They closed the deceased’s account without the money being placed back into the account.”
The presiding magistrate said: “There was a certain degree of planning involved and some degree of trust.
“They knew the victim and had access to the property.
“It was somewhat opportunistic.”
Margaret Nesbitt, Mr Thompson’s niece, said after the hearing: “This has been devastating. We were gutted when we found out.
“My mum [Mr Thompson’s sister] couldn’t believe someone who had helped him would do that.
“She [Mrs Chivers] lived next to my uncle and he trusted her. He gave her a key.
“He obviously left his cheque book in the house with his bank card.
“I think they saw an opportunity. It was staring them in the face and they took it.
“I don’t think he knew what they had done before he died.”
Mrs Nesbitt added: “It’s not about the money, it’s the principle.”
Both Mrs Chivers and Mr Feane were given a community order and must carry out 90 hours unpaid work each.
Additionally, Mrs Chivers must pay £214 compensation and £50 court costs and Mr Feane was fined £305 compensation with £50 court costs.