Mentally ill man was duped by his ‘friend’

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A VULNERABLE man with mental health problems “lost his faith in humanity” after a friend used his bank card to steal hundreds of pounds, a Wigan court heard.

Beverley Anne Dewitt, who sobbed constantly in the dock, escaped jail this week having duped Kenneth Hankey into handing over his card and pin code.

The 34-year-old received a community order and was ordered to pay £200 in compensation to Mr Hankey.

A sentencing hearing at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court heard Dewitt visited the victim’s Maple Crescent home on May 11 and said money had been stolen from her.

Mr Hankey, who was described as someone who suffered from schizophrenia and “could be easily led”, agreed to withdraw money from his account to help out his female friend.

After the pair walked to Asda in Leigh, he discovered he had left his card at home and the pair returned.

Not wanting to walk back, the victim gave his card and details to Dewitt and asked her to withdraw £100.

She returned with the money and Mr Hankey gave her £40 “to help her out”, the court was told.

However, Dewitt kept the card and later withdrew £200 which meant the account reached its daily limit.

She then attempted to withdraw cash on 10 more occasions but was unsuccessful.

Sarah Perkins, prosecuting, told the court the victim had waited up thinking Dewitt would return the card.

She said: “The aggravating feature is that this is a vulnerable person living alone, the defendant has preyed on that vulnerability and taken advantage of his kindness.”

The court also heard that Dewitt had initially told police she had passed the card to a friend and not attempted any further withdrawals. She later pleaded guilty to the full facts.

In a witness impact statement, Mr Hankey, who was not present at the hearing, said: “I wish to say that the incident has made me lose faith in humanity. I feel sorry for her. I feel like I have been kicked in the teeth.”

Bill Pearson, defending, said the defendant herself should be classed as a vulnerable individual who has struggled with mental health, alcohol and drug problems in the past.She has recently found a permanent residence and was attempting to turn her life around, he told the court.

He said: “Preying on a vulnerable individual sounds as if it is the act of a sophisticated criminal, cruel and calculated, and I do not accept that proposition in this case.

“She concedes that temptation got the better of her.

“She’s as upset as she is because of course there is a chance she could go to prison today and she now has somewhere to live after 10 years of trying and a chance to live a normal life.”

Dewitt, of St John Street, Atherton, pleaded guilty to three theft and 10 attempted theft charges.

She received a nine-month community order with supervision and drug rehabilitation requirements, a 12-week curfew between 7pm and 7am, and was ordered to pay £135 costs.