Jane Sweeting, 55, from Scunthorpe, explains how her mum lost it all...
This is Paul,’ my sister Karen, then 19, beamed. ‘My new boyfriend.’
‘Nice to meet you,’ Paul smiled.
It was 1997, and Karen was like the cat who’d got the cream as she showed off her new man to me and Mum, Ann, then 54.
Paul Brown, a decorator, was charming and polite. They’d met through some friends, and he thought the world of Karen.
She was living at home with Mum and my dad Gordon.
Hitting it off, Paul quickly moved in, too. Mum welcomed him – family was all that mattered to her, and he soon became a part of ours.
Not long after, Paul stopped working due to health problems, but helped Mum out with odd jobs.
Then, Karen had a little girl and the three of them moved into their own council house.
I’m sure Mum missed them. But Paul was always visiting, like a second son to her.
Then, in 2006, Dad died from an aneurysm.
There was medical negligence, but Mum was too grief-stricken to care about compensation. Plus, she’d never been used to dealing with money because Dad had managed their finances.
Paul was keen to help, though. He took charge of the case, helped Mum get a £30,000 payout.
Soon, he looked after her bank card, sorted out her getting a new kitchen.
‘I’ve kept some money back in case she needs a stairlift in the future,’ he told us.
We all appreciated Paul stepping up.
Mum was a real homebird and never treated herself. She was just happy to be at home watching telly with her family.
So, it was heartbreaking when she was diagnosed with dementia in 2009.
I carried on popping in to see her all the time, and Paul was always there.
When he wasn’t, he brought Mum to his and Karen’s. I didn’t think anything of it.
But then, I started to notice that on the odd occasion Paul had left Mum alone, if I was round and he rang to check on her, she jumped a mile.
‘He’s taking over her life,’ I worried to my husband Gary, 55, and brother David, 54.
But we’d no proof.
Then, one day in 2011, I was in Mum’s kitchen chatting to Karen when she mentioned Mum had closed her bank accounts.
‘What?’ I gasped. ‘Surely she can’t have spent all that money.’
‘Have you really closed your bank accounts?’ I then asked Mum.
Nodding, she confirmed it. But there was something that felt off.
Sure, she’d had a new kitchen, but hers was only a small, three-bed house, and the kitchen wasn’t anything fancy. There was no way the money could’ve all gone.
Worried, I spoke to Paul.
‘I’ll write a list of everything your mum’s spent,’ he said defensively.
But the list never materialised, and my suspicions about him drove a wedge between me and Karen.
In September 2012 Karen was granted power of attorney over Mum’s finances, and Mum went into a care home the next year.
But it wasn’t until September 2015, when Karen fell ill, that the shocking truth emerged. Visiting her in hospital, it came tumbling out.
‘I’m so sorry to you and all of the family…’ she sobbed.
Karen opened up about how, when she’d been given power of attorney, she’d left it to Paul to manage it all.
‘I was scared to get in touch because it’s been so long,’ Karen explained.
My mind whirred as I thought how Paul – who Mum had treated as her own flesh and blood – had whittled away her savings.
Furious, in December 2015, I went to the police.
The whole thing was too much for poor Karen, though, and on 29 February 2016 she took her own life.
Finally, last November at Grimsby Magistrates Court, Paul Brown, 39, admitted theft between 1 October 2012 and 31 December 2015.
Bank statements showed he’d withdrawn £200 and £300 every couple of days, which Mum had no knowledge of, over a period of about two and a half years.
Brown admitted to stealing about £8,000, though I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Apparently, he told police that he had a ‘compulsion to buy something he did not really need and that, every time he bought something, it gave him a kick’.
The case was referred to Grimsby Crown Court, and I went along this February.
Brown’s lawyer said he was genuinely sorry, ‘disgusted’ with what he’d done.
‘He will live with the guilt for the rest of his life… He understands the anger of the family and his partner. He would like to apologise to the family,’ his lawyer told the court.
After, Brown was sentenced to 12 months in prison. An insult!
Mum’s dementia is so bad she doesn’t even know who we are, so the only good thing is she’ll never know how badly Brown betrayed her.
As far as I’m concerned, there aren’t enough ‘sorry’s for the damage he’s done.
We’re still waiting for his apology.
Nothing will bring back my beloved sister. But I’m telling my story to warn other people.
Brown will be out of prison soon. Don’t let this scumbag destroy your family like he did ours.