Jail for drug addict Edington decorator who stole jewellery from elderly
1:36pm Monday 14th October 2013 in News
A painter and decorator who stole priceless jewellery from elderly customers' homes has been jailed for two years and eight months.
Helen McCormack was trusted by the home owners, one of whom was in her nineties, as her small family firm carried out work at their houses.
But the 36-year-old abused the faith they placed in her to line her pockets with thousands of pounds worth of irreplaceable heirlooms.
During an 18-month campaign of theft, McCormack, who ran P&H Services, with her father, plundered about £20,000 in jewellery and cash.
And she didn't even stop when she was put on a suspended sentence by a court earlier in the summer for stealing from residents' rooms in a retirement village.
Hannah Squire, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court on Friday how all 17 victims had hired the Edington-based decorating business to carry out work.
She said a 93-year-old woman from Westbury lost £4,000 worth of cash and items of silverware, some of which had been handed down from her grandmother, when McCormack was working in her house in May.
A retired lady from Bratton lost her jewellery box, including a locket containing a picture of her as a young child with locks of her and her mother's hair.
Miss Squire said suspicions were first aroused late last year when a number of customers said they had noticed things missing from their homes.
McCormack was spoken to by the police in January but insisted she had not gone anywhere near the jewellery.
As the complaints continued she was questioned again in March after £2,000 worth of jewellery was taken from a house in Steeple Ashton.
On her phone officers found a text message reading 'Got lots of gold and some cash, forgot to say I also got a load of co codamol,' which she refused to comment on.
In June she received a suspended sentence after being caught red-handed stealing from rooms at a retirement home where she said she was visiting a resident. But she was finally nailed for the string of thefts after £50 went missing from a house in Erlestoke where she had been working.
McCormack, of Cowleaze Lane, Edington, near Westbury, pleaded guilty to four burglaries and nine thefts, asked for four more matters to be taken into consideration and admitted breaching a suspended sentence imposed for three burglaries.
Alex Daymond, defending, said his client had a drug problem in the past but had always kept on top of it, paying for it out of her earnings.
But when it returned and business suffered due to the downturn she turned to crime.
Jailing her, Michael Vere-Hodge QC said: "The owners of the homes had trusted you as you were decorating there. You abused that trust in the most appalling way.
"I hope you realise the harm you have done to a large amount of people often towards the end of their life. There can't be any doubt you knew ithat you were stealing from particularly elderly and vulnerable people."