Con man stole £21k from disabled pal

Liverpool Crown Court
Liverpool Crown Court

A severely disabled Wigan woman who trusted a friend and former colleague to help with her banking arrangements was swindled out of more than £21,000 by him.

The 73-year-old victim, disabled following three strokes, was devastated to find that Peter Stewart had been systematically stealing from her, a court has heard.

Stewart, 51, was due for sentence this week but after hearing that he is going to pay it all back within 28 days the sentence was adjourned until next month.

Neil Biswarya, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that the victim, Agnes Howlett had been an executive officer with the DWP about 20 years ago and interviewed Stewart for a job which he got.

He became a work colleague and a good friend who also got close to her extended family and when she lost her husband, who was her sole carer, in March 2014, Stewart offered to help with her banking as by then she was unable to read or write following a third stroke.

He used to help with the widow’s shopping and began using ATMs with her card details, to which he had been given access but unknown to her he was pocketing her cash and using it to pay off his credit card debt and transferring cash to his own bank account.

This went on for two years before his dishonesty came to light when she asked her son to get her a balance slip and on being told what it said realised it was not as expected.

A bank statement revealed that over two years between May 2014 and May this year payments totalling £21,750 had been made to Stewart’s account and a credit card company.

At an earlier hearing, prosecutors described Stewart’s offence as a “disability hate crime”. In total he stole £21,750 between May 1, 2014, and June 29, 2016. The court heard how Stewart “took advantage” of a “vulnerable victim”.

Alan Bakker, prosecuting, said: “The allegation is a breach of trust over a two-year period. The lady in question is a vulnerable victim.”

Mr Biswarya said that the victim, from Aspull, felt “her trust and friendship had been betrayed.” In an impact statement she said: “I feel upset and deceived and very angry the more I think about it.”

She said he knew about all her health problems and limitations yet had still stolen from her. Stewart, of Fredrick Lunt Avenue, Knowsley, pleaded guilty to theft. He has been further remanded on bail to check that he has repaid the money before he is sentenced.