The widower of a woman whose sister stole £50,000 from their mother’s inheritance today watched her walk free from court.
Maxine Forster, 51, was given power of attorney alongside her sister, Gillian Sayer, over the fortune of their mother. Betty Forster, when she began to suffer from dementia.
However, for six years - between November 2006 and December 2012 - Forster took money from her mother’s account and left her third sister, Elaine Welch, with little inheritance.
Mrs Welch died last year, leaving her husband Alan to fight for what he believed was theirs.
Today, Forster was sentenced to eight months in prison - but a judge suspended the term for a year.
Mr Welch said after the hearing: “Obviously I have no way of proving that this contributed to the fact that Elaine’s cancer came back.
“But I don’t believe the added stress will have helped our situation.”
Prosecuting, Michael Cahill told Bradford Crown Court that there had been a deterioration of the relationship between Forster, from York, and her sister, Mrs Welch.
He said: “Following the death of Betty Forster in 2012, it became apparent that Betty’s estate had diminished to £18,000.
“This was quite a surprise as there had been a payment to it of £200,000.”
However, the court heard that Betty Forster had not wanted for anything and that instead the money had gone on life’s “ordinary pleasures”.
Defending, Nick Barker told the court that this was a “difficult family situation”.
He said: “Maxine Forster was facing pressures at the time of 2006 when this course of offending begun.
“She had lost a child and she had to deal with her mother’s increasing dementia.
“She was the sole pastoral carer to her mother as her two sisters lived down south.”
The court heard that Forster had been able to save £27,000 out of the total taken which was to be paid to Mr Welch immediately.
Sentencing Forster, Judge Bartfield explained he was passing sentence in “the most unusual way”.
He said: “The sentence will be passed without my knowing the final outcome, whether you are going to pay the £27,000.
“This sentence will change should I find you misled me and I am somewhat nervous that you might have done.”
Judge Bartfield added: “Over the course of six years you took £50,000 from the account that didn’t belong to you.
“You didn’t do it all in one sum, it was for the kind of things that families spend money on.
“They were life’s ordinary pleasures.
“The problem was Alan Welch had an entitlement so he lost out to the some of around £50,000.
“It took a very long time for you to admit this.”
Referring to the £27,000 promised by Forster, Mr Welch is sceptical he will ever receive the money.
He said: “People will think that all I’m after is the money but I was raised in a time when you did the right thing.
“The only thing Maxine can do is to pay the money back and she has failed miserably.
“I was promised £50,000 six months ago and she has failed to get that. But I will persist if I don’t receive it and I will continue to fight for the whole amount she had taken.”
Speaking of the moment that both he and his wife realised there was barely any money left in Mrs Forster’s estate, Mr Welch said they were both “totally shocked”.
He said: “When Maxine was given power of attorney, Elaine and I thought nothing of it.
“We thought she would need access to Betty’s account to pay for her care bills. So when we realised there was nothing left, we were both totally shocked.”
He added: “When we discovered there was just £13,000 left in Betty’s account, as two executors of Betty’s will, Maxine’s husband, Andrew, told me it was now our responsibility to divide that up between the three girls.
“I knew at that point something serious had happened.”
Mr Welch added: “We have never received any explanation of what happened. We were never given a reason as to why it happened or where the money had gone.
“We first voiced our concerns in 2009 and since then we have had no contact at all.
“Maxine has never shown any remorse.”
Despite his persistence in receiving the money that is due to his family, Mr Welch, from Devon, is determined not to let it consume him.
He said: “I am proud of being able to bring this to court because to do so was the right thing to do.
“But I won’t let it consume me.
“I’ve lost a wife and there are other things that are more important.”