Cash-strapped OAP 'killed herself after scam'

An elderly woman killed herself after ending up almost penniless chasing a lottery scam, an inquest heard today.

Lieselotte Gerrard, 84, was found dead at her flat in Bedford on January 15 after taking an overdose of pills.

An inquest at Bedford Coroner's Court heard today that Mrs Gerrard - the widow of an Army officer - had wasted her money pursuing a lottery scam.

She then made a deal with her long-term cleaner that she and her husband would pay the management fees on her flat until she died, providing she left them the property in her will.

But today the inquest heard that when Mrs Gerrard's body was found, there was a note in the flat claiming the cleaner, Satvir Kaur, known as Sue, had made her take her own life.

The note, which said "Sue made me kill myself", sparked a police investigation but detectives found no crime had been committed by Mrs Kaur and her husband Surjit Singh.

Detective Sergeant Paul Baron, who carried out the probe, said: "Some may find it morally wrong that the Singh family stood to benefit financially but I have not discovered anything to indicate they are responsible for the death of Lieselotte Gerrard."

The inquest heard German-born Mrs Gerrard, known as Lisa, had been married twice - the second time to Ralph Gerrard, a Lieutenant Colonel in the army.

Mr Baron said Mrs Gerrard enjoyed wealth and social standing, living with her husband in a large bungalow in Bedford.

Mrs Kaur was employed as their cleaner but the relationship stayed as that of employer and employee, he said, with the "demanding" 84-year-old insisting she was referred to as Mrs Gerrard.

The inquest heard Mrs Gerrard suffered a range of medical conditions, including hypertension and osteoporosis, and was left in chronic pain after a hip replacement. She also had a history of depression.

Mr Baron said when she moved to a warden-controlled flat in Aspley Court, Warwick Avenue, Bedford, Mrs Kaur continued to clean for her.

He said the pensioner remained "somewhat aloof", not getting involved in social activities, but got embroiled in an international lottery scam.

"It's apparent that over a period of time Lieselotte wasted a huge amount of money chasing the lottery win that was never going to happen," Mr Baron said.

He said one day she told staff she was being picked up by a Rolls Royce to go to Canada to pick up a cheque, waiting outside in her best clothes, but it never turned up.

"It appears she rendered herself almost penniless chasing the lottery scam," he said.

Mrs Gerrard's stepson, Barry Gerrard, tried to persuade her to give up on the scam, but the pair fell out in June last year and did not speak again after that, the inquest heard.

Mr Baron said her financial situation became so dire she could no longer afford the flat's annual management fees.

She arranged with Mrs Kaur and Mr Singh that they would pay the fees until her death on the condition that they inherited the property.

"In return for an outlay of £1,200 a year for the remainder of her life, Mr Singh would inherit the flat and all other wealth in the will," he told the inquest.

Solicitors were instructed to change the will, and advised other solutions to the money worries, but Mrs Gerrard was insistent on her course of action, and was deemed to be of sound mind, the court heard.

On the day of her death, Aspley Court's manager tried to speak to her twice. The second time, she went into the flat to find her dead in the bedroom.

A post-mortem examination found she had taken an overdose of the painkiller Tramadol.

Mr Baron said a police officer found the note in a closed bureau, but when questioned Mrs Kaur and Mr Singh had no idea why she might have written it.

He said, though the couple had asked to see the will and the deeds to the flat, they had not exerted any pressure on the 84-year-old.

He said: "Lieselotte Gerrard was clearly a lonely and vulnerable person.

"She had alienated herself from her step-family by mistakenly chasing a windfall from a lottery scam.

"The pursuit of financial happiness had led to the loss of any wealth both she and her husband had built up."

He said possibly the change in relationship with her employees may have hammered home the fact she had lost everything.

Recording a verdict of suicide, Bedfordshire and Luton Coroner David Morris said: "This lady from a fairly substantial background and social status came down, in time, to living in supported accommodation because she needed the help that Aspley Court could give her."

He said while she did not appear to socialise much, she was well provided for and supported by Mrs Kuar and Mr Singh.

"However, tragically most of her money was taken from her on an international fraud," Mr Morris continued.

"She sadly won't be the last person but it's worthy of note that these terrible frauds have such amazingly difficult consequences for those concerned and their families.

"This seems to be the case as far as Mrs Gerrard was concerned.

"Having agreed to transfer her property to her cleaner/carer then, as the detective sergeant says, she had not got anything else in the world."

He said they could not be sure when the note had been written and he was satisfied no third party was involved in her death. He ruled she had taken her own life.