THE MOTHER and adoptive father of a severely brain-damaged girl who allegedly used her £2.6m compensation to fund a luxury lifestyle were “living beyond their means”, a court heard.
Cathy Watson, 44, and ex-husband Robert Hills, 49, are accused of stealing more than £500,000 from money awarded to their daughter, Samantha Svendsen.
Miss Svendsen, now 29, suffers from cerebral palsy and needs round-the-clock care after suffering brain damage due to medical negligence. She was awarded compensation by Grimsby and Scunthorpe Health Authority in 2009.
But Doncaster Crown Court has heard that Hills, of Holly Mews, Grimsby, and Watson, of Heron Gate, Scunthorpe, allegedly spent some of the money on credit cards, cars, jewellery and property.
Watson has pleaded not guilty to four offences of theft and one of transferring criminal property at Doncaster Crown Court. Hills has admitted four offences of theft.
The court heard that through benefits payments and rental income from property investments, the couple had an income of £117,000 per year to live off after tax,
Gordon Stables, defending Watson, challenged Hills during cross-examination yesterday and described the figure as “an astonishingly large income”.
“Why couldn’t you live on that money?” he asked.
Hills replied: “I wish I had an answer to that, sir. We were living beyond our means.”
Mr Stables asked him if it was about the luxury cars. The court heard the couple owned nine cars, including a Mercedes and an Audi A4. Hills said: “I would think that that was part of the issue, yes sir.”
Mr Stables claimed Hills would visit a nearby BMW showroom to look at the new cars with Watson. “They were very familiar in there and you were a good customer.” “Yes, we both were,” Hills replied.
Hills denied the couple had rows over new cars he had purchased and claimed they bought them together. Watson’s trial continues.