Two former care home workers who "fleeced" vulnerable patients of tens of thousands of pounds were jailed today.
Former care home manager Joan Vernon, 61, from Maintree Crescent, Speke, Liverpool, was sentenced to four years in prison, while her deputy Kathleen Treble, 47, from Linner Road, Speke, was jailed for three years and three months.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that between 2004 and 2010 the pair had pocketed a total of £92,741 after stealing from three elderly patients, two of whom suffered dementia, at Speke Care Home and keeping the fees paid by a patient's wife.
Vernon, who had been the manager since 2001 and was entrusted with running finances, pleaded guilty to four counts of theft after the trial started on January 24.
Treble pleaded not guilty to the same four counts of theft but was convicted by a jury on February 2.
Passing sentence today, Judge David Aubrey QC described the pair's actions as "mean and despicable".
"Drip by drip, almost day to day you together fleeced four elderly residents in your care and in charge of their monies," he said.
"These offences are so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence is appropriate."
Both women looked shocked as the sentence was read out, and members of both families cried.
Justice Aubrey described Vernon as the "prime mover" who had kept two thirds of the stolen money, and said Treble had been "stubborn and brazen" towards the investigation.
The pair took money from patients Prosper Chevalier, 92, Luke Moore, 97, and Nancy Hoare, who was 79 when she was admitted to the home, by making withdrawals with debit cards and cashing pension giro cheques.
Mrs Hoare, who has since died, and Mr Moore both suffered from dementia.
Vernon and Treble also kept money paid directly to them by Elsie Rathbone for the care provided to her husband of 58 years, Thomas Rathbone, 79.
The thefts were discovered after an anonymous tip off in May 2010 led an investigator to inquire about the bank statements of Mr Chevalier and Mrs Hoare.
Vernon subsequently told the investigator she thought Treble was responsible for stealing money from Mr Chevalier but believed Treble would blame her.
It was found that over six and a half months, starting in September 2009, 54 withdrawals of £200 and £300 were made from Mr Chevalier's account.
These stopped when Treble went on a three-week holiday to Turkey on September 16, and resumed on October 9 after she had returned.
Daniel Travers, for the prosecution, said: "It is clear that Joan Vernon was living beyond her means and had substantial debts, including credit cards, mail order, mortgages, utilities, provident loans, and bank loans.
"Although Treble owed money, it was substantially less than Vernon."
In mitigation, Vernon's lawyer John O'Leary said she publicly apologised for the breach of trust she had committed, which had let down not only the home's residents and their families but also her own four children.
Defending Treble, Rachel Oakdene said prison would be particularly difficult for her client as she has two daughters who are expecting children and would not be there to see their births.