Parents who stole and sold laptops from a cancer ward where their terminally ill son was being treated have been sent to prison.
Matthew Ingham, 37, and Kim Ager, 34, were told their actions had been “despicable” as they were jailed over the theft of the computer equipment at Leeds General Infirmary.
Leeds Crown Court heard the pair even tried to blame their sick nine-year-old son, who has an aggressive form of cancer, for the thefts.
Ingham was jailed for two years after he was found guilty of the theft of three laptops and a HD livestreaming console from Ward 31 of the LGI in July last year.
Ager was given a nine month sentence after pleading guilty to handling stolen goods.
The court heard the laptops were cut from the bedsides of ill children and later sold after being advertised for sale using Ager’s Facebook account.
Heather Gilmore, prosecuting, said the laptops had been provided by the Candlighters charity.
They were donated so sick youngsters could keep in touch with their parents via Skype and play games to take their minds of the suffering they were going through.
Ingham and Ager sold the laptops for a fraction of their worth.
The offences came to light when buyers contacted police after ‘Ward 31’ appeared on screen when they switch on laptops and they were asked to enter a password.
Police discovered the equipment when they went to the jobless couple’s family home in Keighley.
Both tried to pin the thefts on their son, who was being treated on Ward 31 of the LGI for neuroblastoma - a cancer which attacks the central nervous system.
During an earlier hearing before magistrates, Ingham said the boy had used scissors to cut the laptops from the bedsides of cancer-stricken children and then put them in a suitcase to sneak them out of LGI.
The court heard Ingham and Ager were now separated.
Glen Parsons, for Ingham, of Hardwick Street, Keighley, said his client had committed the offences as he had become addicted to class A drugs as he struggled to cope following his son’s diagnosis.
Mr Parsons said: “He has lost his dignity, he has lost his good name. This is a case which has generated widespread publicity. He has been vilified in his own community.”
Julian White, for Ager, of Blackthorne Road, Ilkley, said she had now moved out of the family home and was in a relationship with another man.
Mr White said Ager had never been in trouble before. He added: “This lady is never ever likely to trouble these courts again.”
Jailing the pair, judge Sally Cahill, QC, said: It is difficult to find a word that describes just how despicable this offending was.”
Jo Shepheard, the director of Candlelighters, said: “This case is really sad. The charity works really hard providing all we can. These are not from the NHS, these are bought from generous donations from the public.”
Sergeant Pat Kenning, of the City Neighbourhood Policing Team, “The circumstances of these thefts understandably provoked a strong reaction from people and a high level of interest.
“As a result of a comprehensive and sensitively handled investigation by officers from the City Neighbourhood Policing Team those responsible were brought to justice and nearly all the stolen items were recovered.
“We also liaised with one of our key partner agencies, Business Against Crime in Leeds (BACIL), who were able to donate six tablet computers to the two children’s cancer wards to support the very valuable work that they and the Candlelighters charity do.”