A WARDEN at sheltered accommodation who plundered thousands from the bank account of an elderly widower, who has since died, walked free from court.

Bingo addict Angela Barefoot helped herself to the cash after getting her hands on the card and PIN number of the resident, who was in his 80s and suffering dementia.

The 60-year-old warden then made hundreds of cash machine withdrawals from the account, the majority at the Gala Bingo Hall, over a period of almost four years.

She was caught after victim Robert Hackett’s daughter realised things didn’t add up and contacted the police.

Now after hearing how Barefoot had led a blameless life up until the offending, which started around the time her husband died, a judge imposed a suspended sentence.

Simon Goodman, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court Mr Hackett, who was born in 1927, moved into sheltered accommodation at George Selman Gardens in 2001.

“Since 2001 this defendant had been the warden and it seems, to cut a long story short, that this defendant had a gambling habit,” he said.

Between the start of 2008 and late November 2011 the court heard she made 400 withdrawals from cash machines.

An earlier hearing was told that a total of £48,000 was withdrawn from the account but prosecutors accepted as much as £29,000 could have been spent on the victim.

The court was told the remaining £19,100 was used by Barefoot to fund her gambling. Barefoot, of Saltash Road, Churchward, had been due to stand trial earlier this week after pleading not guilty to theft.

But after a judge indicated he would not send her immediately to jail she changed her plea minutes before a jury was due to be sworn in.

Tim Hills, defending, said as a result of the case his client, who started work at the age of 15, had lost everything.

When she was at the sheltered accommodation, he said, it was hard dirty work, but she actively tried to help and befriend the residents.

Before he died her husband used to get money out for Mr Hackett and passed the card on to her.

“That was fatal in the circumstances of the case because I don’t think anyone realised Angela Barefoot had a gambling habit: she hadn't realised it herself,” he said.

Mr Hills said: “She now has a bungalow provided for her by the council where she lives on benefits. Of course the family lost what they might expect to receive as a share out of Bob Hackett’s estate.

“Angela Barefoot has lost her job, she has lost her home, she has lost her reputation. She will never get that back as she had breached trust in a serious way.

“That is something she will have to live with, probably for the rest of her life. She will probably never work again having worked all her life.

“She will not be allowed near old people again in the way she was as a warden at George Selman Gardens.”

Passing sentence Judge Douglas Field said: “I was aware of your gambling problems and also made aware of the sums involved when I made the indication of sentence.

“That is not to say that this is very, very serious offending. Over years you were regularly breaching your duty of trust to this elderly man.

“He had every reason to think that he could trust you. You were helping yourself to his money to satisfy your gambling habit. Before you started taking this money you were doing a very valuable job and doing it well.”

He imposed a 20-month jail term suspended for two years with 200 hours of unpaid work and a £500 compensation payment.