Prison ‘inevitable’ for Hitchin woman after she defrauded mother-in-law of more than £300,000

Cambridge Crown Court

Cambridge Crown Court - Credit: Archant

A woman from Hitchin has pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud and three charges of theft against her mother-in-law amounting to more than £300,000 – claiming a vitamin B12 deficiency contributed to her actions.

Debbie Graham, of Grove Road in Hitchin, admitted defrauding her mother-in-law Barbara Tilley of a total of £308, 284.76 – including £14,450 by claiming her BP Pension.

Graham, 55, also pleaded guilty to stealing amounts of £112,970, £160,587 and £20,277.76 relating to the sale of Mrs Tilley’s house while she was in an undisclosed care home.

Judge Jonathan Cooper told Graham: “You have denuded one of the most vulnerable people of her lifetime savings.

“You choose the victim on the basis of her high vulnerability, which is not something I warm to.

“This is a high impact case in terms of age, financial circumstances and the impact it had on the victim, as you stole more than £300,000 from your mother-in-law, which had a devastating effect on her.”

Judge Cooper added: “This is a very serious case and I must warn you in relation to harm and culpability your starting point is a considerable custodial sentence of between 18 months and five years.”

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He ordered a three-week adjournment while background and medical information on Graham is compiled for a full pre-sentence report.

In mitigation, David Smithet, who was defending Graham, told the court her husband Robert was involved in a serious car accident in 2003, hadn’t worked for nine years and suffered from sleep apnoea and memory loss.

Smithet also told the court that Graham suffered from depression, anxiety, vitamin B12 deficiency, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and bowel and bladder conditions, all of which he said may have contributed to her actions.

In summing up, Judge Cooper bailed Graham to return to Cambridge Crown Court on January 27 for sentencing, adding: “Custody will be an almost inevitable consequence.”

Graham, wearing a shawl and dark clothes, smiled as she left the courtroom.

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