Whitley Bay care home boss who robbed residents jailed for ‘grotesque breach of trust’

A despicable care home manager who cheated vulnerable and dying residents out of thousands of pounds in a ‘grotesque breach of trust’ has been jailed.

Neil Stewart was trusted to look after the interests of elderly people in a nursing home, but he turned to robbing them to fund his gambling habit. Newcastle Crown Court heard he started working at Risedale Residential Care Home, Whitley Bay, in 2014 and his wrongdoing came to light in 2017 when a member of staff noticed the bank statements of a critically ill woman on his desk.

An inquest has found he defrauded three residents out of almost £20,000 in a shocking betrayal of his position. Now the 49-year-old has been locked up for two years after admitting three counts of fraud.

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The first victim, who has since died, had lived in the house for 14 years and was in protective court due to his incapacity. Around £25 a week was made available for his expenses, with the occasional release of modest additional funds for things such as clothing – there were three requests for £150 over an 18 month period before the breach of Stewart.

But between August 2015 and March 2017, Stewart made 17 fraudulent claims for £200 at a time, pocketing a total of £3,400.

Neil Stewart, director of a nursing home jailed for fraud

The fraud against the second victim, a woman, came to light after Stewart left the house and a care assistant discovered he had obtained a bank card from the victim to replace her bank book. His previous spending pattern was to withdraw £160 a fortnight to buy cigarettes and go to a local cafe. But between February 2016 and April 2017, Stewart made another 124 withdrawals, totaling £14,285.

The third victim, who has since died, was critically ill and died in hospital while Stewart robbed her. An investigation showed that she spent most of her time lying unresponsive in the hospital and was in no condition to allow the various withdrawals made by Stewart. Between February and April 2017, he used his bank card eight times at various ATMs in Whitley Bay to withdraw £1,960.

The court heard the first two victims had no relatives to speak on their behalf and the sister of the third said Stewart was surprised to find out she existed. She claimed he went on a ‘charm offensive’ to persuade her that her sister was in the best place and receiving the best care and added that there was ultimately not enough money for her funeral and said said “she died in a pitiful state”.

Stewart, of Mill Farm Close, Elswick, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud. Jailing him, Judge Penny Moreland said: “This was a gross breach of trust on your part and it was offensive for an extended period of time.

“You have targeted some of the most vulnerable victims with no one to defend them. The breach of trust here is so great that proper punishment can only be achieved through immediate detention.”

Matthew Purves, defending, said Stewart’s gambling addiction, along with his drinking, was behind the “grotesque breach of trust”. He said he was left homeless, but was genuinely remorseful and did not seek to justify his actions.

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