A NEIGHBOUR who befriended a housebound 91-year-old woman went on to steal more than £8,000 from her to pay off personal debts including mobile phone bills and her mortgage, Sheffield Crown Court was told yesterday.
Sarah Bolsover, 41, who managed to carry out the thefts after gaining access to the elderly woman's bank details, was jailed for four months yesterday by Judge Alan Goldsack who described her offending as the "grossest breach of trust."
Mother-of-two Bolsover went into Olive Roberts' bank account after the old woman had initially agreed to loan her cash to pay off a number of debts which were mounting up, including utility bills and her mortgage payments.
Tina Dempster, prosecuting at Sheffield Crown Court, said Bolsover and her mother had become extremely friendly with the old age pensioner. She said that Mrs Roberts was housebound as a result of developing agoraphobia, a fear of open spaces, and Mrs Bolsover senior helped by beginning to act as her carer.
Bolsover, who has two daughters aged 11 and 14, took over as the pensioner's carer when her mother fell ill and received a carers' allowance for two months.
She would help out by running errands and doing shopping for the old lady.
However, by then she was experiencing financial difficulties and had begun running up a number of debts.
Mrs Roberts first became suspicious when she noticed her some of her post was going missing.
Then, Bolsover persuaded the old lady into handing over her bank details to pay a bill for her, which gave her access to the account.
When her bank statements stopped arriving at her home address, Mrs Roberts became suspicious and asked her brother-in-law to check what was going on.
By the time checks were carried out, it emerged that 8,238 had been removed from her bank account.
Bolsover was arrested by police in July last year and later admitted she used the stolen money to pay off outstanding mobile telephone and utility bills, a loan and her mortgage.
But she insisted that it was a temporary measure and she had every intention of repaying the money.
Richard Adams, defending, said Bolsover's husband worked in the building trade and he lost his job.
As a result the family had developed "significant" financial arrears.
Bolsover spoke to the elderly lady about her plight and, initially Mrs Roberts, helped out by giving her cash to assist.
However, Bolsover then abused her trust by secretly withdrawing more money from her bank account over an eight-month period, without consent.
The court heard that Bolsover's thieving spree only ended when her husband got another job, money started coming into their home again and her conscience got the better of her.
She had made no attempt to hide what she had done and her family had since offered to repay the stolen money.
Bolsover, of Wellcarr Road in Woodseats, Sheffield, admitted theft when she appeared before Judge Goldsack.
The Judge said he had doubts over whether Bolsover was genuinely remorseful for her actions.
He said that her financial problems were no worse than those being suffered "by thousands if not millions of other people."
He told the defendant: "We have more and more elderly people living alone who often rely on neighbours or friends to help them with their financial affairs.
"Those who breach that trust in the case of someone of this age must expect to go to prison if they are caught," he said.
Bolsover, who was given credit for an early plea, showed no reaction as she was sentenced yesterday.