A thief has admitted stealing more than £100,000 from his mother-in-law who was a widowed war hero and was dying from dementia.
Heartless Ian Downs, 66, pocketed £95,000 from frail Mary Garvey, 94, before claiming a further £20,000 in life insurance policies following her death in May 2013.
She had previously served in the British Army Catering Corps during the Second World War where she met her future husband Anthony who was a soldier in the Durham Light Infantry.
During her time in the military, she travelled across Europe and was even credited with preventing the explosion of a bomb on an allied train.
Frail Mary Garvey (left) had previously served in the British Army Catering Corps during the Second World War where she met her future husband Anthony (pictured on their wedding day, right) who was a soldier in the Durham Light Infantry
Grandmother-of-two Mary was left widowed when Anthony died aged just 59 in 1977 before she became reliant on her family for support after suffering from dementia.
Downs took control of her financial matters but secretly made a number of small payments into his own accounts.
He gave mother-of-two Mary, who lived in sheltered accommodation, money to spend each week and bought her groceries and clothing.
When the family asked for her to be moved into a care home set up especially for war veterans they were told by Downs that it wasn’t a good idea.
Ms Garvey with her husband Anthony. During her time in the military, she travelled across Europe and was even credited with preventing the explosion of a bomb on an allied train
The deceit – which occurred over eight years – came to light months after Mary’s death when her daughter, and Downs’ sister-in-law, Gwenda and granddaughter Angela asked about any inheritance.
Downs told them he would let them know but months went by without any word and eventually, Angela confronted him and demanded to see copies of the accounts.
When he failed to present the documents she contacted detectives at Northumbria Police who uncovered the huge fraud.
Downs admitted two counts of theft at Newcastle Crown Court on January 14 and will be sentenced later this month.
Now Mary’s granddaughter, Angela, has said her war-hero grandmother ‘deserved a life of luxury’ but instead her own uncle had left her without a penny to her name.
She said: ‘This case was never about the money. It was about the fact a woman who dedicated her life to her country was left to die in poverty.
‘My grandmother deserved a life of luxury and should have had anything she wanted but instead a person she trusted ended up stealing all her money.
‘She was vulnerable, lonely and suffering from dementia but my uncle took advantage of that for his own financial gain.
‘He has torn our family apart and I will never be able to forgive him for how he treated my grandmother.
‘I am glad that he will now be held accountable for his actions.’
Following the conviction, Northumbria Police Detective Constable Frank Cox described the case as an ‘appalling breach of trust’.
He said: ‘Mary Garvey was a frail and vulnerable woman whose life was very much in the hands of Ian Downs.
‘The defendant has taken advantage of his position of trust for the best part of a decade during which time he lived off the money he stole from Mary.
‘In the weeks before he was due to appear in court he has attempted to pay some of it back but ultimately he has now been held responsible for his crimes.
‘This case comes as a reminder of how low some people will sink if it means they can benefit themselves so if you have suspicions then we would urge you to contact police.’
A year after the start of the Second World War, Mary joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women’s branch of the British Army, at the age of just 22.
She later joined the Army Catering Corps and it was here that she met her future husband Anthony who himself was just 23-years-old when he joined the British Army in February 1940.
The pair met in a Welsh training camp where they fell in love. They were separated by their postings but met again later in a British Army camp based in Germany.
After the conclusion of the war, the pair married and moved to the North East where they spent the rest of their lives as publicans in Newcastle city centre where they ran The Golden Eagle.