An elderly and poorly widower has been forced to move into sheltered care after he was preyed on by a wicked neighbour who stole thousands of pounds from him.
Derby Crown Court heard on Thursday, April 27, how Darren Smith, 37, of Brockwell Lane, Chesterfield, stole an estimated £10,000 to £13,000 from his 73-year-old neighbour as well as three watches.
The victim, who suffers with dementia and is recovering after a stroke, stated he has been left feeling betrayed by what happened after he was forced to go into care and leave the town where he lived for 60 years.
He described the ordeal with bewilderment and sadness and stated: “I regret that it is something I will think about until the day I die.”
Prosecuting barrister Sonal Ahya said: “The defendant and his partner were the complainant’s next door neighbours. The complainant was friends with them and trusted them and this defendant had a set of keys to the complainant’s home.
“In early 2015, the complainant allowed the defendant and his partner to help him out with chores and assist with personal hygiene and shopping.”
However, the victim’s daughter raised concerns about regular cash withdrawals which she felt were unusual.
The complainant, who is a retired accountant and grandfather, also told police that the defendant would take him to a cash machine and would use his bank card to make withdrawals without receipts.
Miss Ahya also claimed that the complainant stopped receiving bank statements because they were allegedly being intercepted by the defendant to cover his tracks.
The defendant admitted stealing £10,000, which the Crown argued was a figure closer to £13,000, and he also admitted stealing two watches in addition to stealing a Breitling watch which had been a 21st birthday present.
Miss Ahya told the court Smith sold the Breitling watch for £800 to a jeweller who sold the watch on but then recovered it from their customer when they realised the watch had been stolen.
Smith initially denied any wrong-doing but eventually pleaded guilty to three counts of theft relating to the stolen money, the two stolen watches and the stolen Breitling watch between April, 2015, and April, 2016.
Miss Ahya said that the complainant had been left feeling scared and frightened in his own home and he had to go into temporary care before he moved into sheltered accommodation in Manchester.
Joe Harvey, defending, said Smith and his partner had initially offered neighbourly assistance and Smith became a friend of the family.
But Mr Harvey added that Smith is a salesman with a family and he was struggling financially and the temptation to steal became too great.
Mr Harvey said: “The temptation became too great for him and it was a quick fix to a problem and it became a long-term problem that got the better of him.
“He accepts it and has found himself in a position where the monies became as steep as they are but he never intended that.
“He had not seen a cash cow ripe for milking.”
Recorder Helen Malcolm QC told Smith: “Your offences contributed to a breach of trust and common humanity to one of your neighbours, continuing for a year and they were particularly mean offences.
“He had to move out of his home that he had shared with his wife and move from the town where he lived for 60 years.”
Recorder Malcolm QC sentenced Smith to two years of custody.
The victim’s daughter told the Derbyshire Times: “It was awful for dad because he could not make sense of why anyone would do this to him and he struggled to come to terms with what had happened and why he has had to move.
“It’s not been about the money it has been about the impact on him.”
She added: “We’re satisfied with the sentence but one of the interesting things is that the defendant had been allowed to continue living in his flat while our dad had to move out of his home.”
The victim’s daughter praised the police investigation as “fantastic” especially after the defendant had initially denied any wrong-doing.