Man spared jail after stealing from vulnerable woman

Salisbury Journal: Sylvia Barrett with her friend's dog Milly Sylvia Barrett with her friend's dog Milly

A GREAT Durnford man who “frightened and intimidated”

a vulnerable neighbour and stole thousands of pounds from her bank account has been spared a jail term.

Colin Richard Potter, 52, of Little Down View, admitted stealing from Sylvia Barrett, 63, between June and October last year when he appeared at Winchester Crown Court.

Mrs Barrett, who was diabetic and had one leg amputated, as well as having a heart condition, died in July this year.

Her sister, Christine Simpson, said Potter acted as a friend to Mrs Barrett, visiting her in hospital, doing her shopping and looking after her home.

But Mrs Simpson said he was just “grooming” her so he could gradually steal thousands of pounds from her bank account.

Mrs Simpson, who lives in Staffordshire, said “manipulative”

Potter even stole £100 from Mrs Barrett while visiting her in hospital.

She travelled to see her sister at the hospital shortly before her death and she described her as “like an abandoned dog with no hope”

after Potter’s betrayal.

“I was very, very shocked and sad to see her in such a state. It was awful,” said Mrs Simpson. “There was nothing there to fight any further.”

The thefts were finally brought to light by a friend of Mrs Barrett, Suzanne Bowie, who realised something was wrong when a card containing birthday and Christmas money from her sister never arrived.

She said Mrs Barrett had been too worried to mention her suspicions but she did eventually confide in her friend.

“I think she knew but she thought she could sort it herself,”

said Mrs Simpson. “She was frightened and intimidated.”

“She was very, very brave.

A good, kind person and she didn’t deserve what happened to her.”

Potter pleaded guilty to stealing £2,000 and a further charge of theft will remain on the file.

He was sentenced last Tuesday to six months in prison suspended for two years and ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work and pay £1,990 in compensation to Mrs Barrett’s estate.

Mrs Simpson said: “It has caused a lot of stress; a lot of upset, and I just feel that I’m glad it’s not me who has to get up every day and know what I have done.”

She added: “PC Tim Bunt has been absolutely outstanding, he worked closely with Sylvia and visited her in hospital. Sometimes confusion could set in and she would be panicking and worried but he was brilliant, as was Suzanne. I can’t thank them both enough.”

PC Bunt, who led the investigation, said: “Potter took advantage of Mrs Barrett’s trust and vulnerability and even when she was very ill in hospital his despicable abuse of her trust continued. The extent of this deception must have been devastating for her.

“Although sadly she couldn’t witness Potter’s admission and sentencing in court, we hope that her family and friends have taken some reassurance that these crimes have been put before the courts.”

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