Former town mayor, 57, fleeced RAF veteran

Former Ukip councillor Stephanie Todd, pictured, was found guilty of stealing more than £46,000 from pensioner Philip Wall

A former UKIP councillor fleeced a vulnerable widower in his 90s of £46,000 after she found him wandering confused in the street.

Stephanie Todd, 57, who was also her town’s mayor and worked for an MEP, said she took Philip Wall, now 98, ‘under her wing’ and looked after him because he had no one else.

But as she played the Good Samaritan she was systematically emptying his bank account and is now facing jail after being convicted of theft by a jury at Teesside Crown Court.

She defected from the Conservatives in 2013 saying she wanted to ‘stand up for Middle Egland and out traditional way of life’.

Her decision was lauded by Godfrey Bloom, MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, who said at the time: ‘This is fantastic news and shows what I have always known – that we are the way forward for our country.’

In the 10 days leading up to Christmas last year, Todd withdrew £1,000 from Mr Wall’s account and also went on a spending spree in Marks and Spencer on his debit card.

The RAF veteran who served in Egypt, was described as ‘frugal’ refusing to pay for a taxi even when he needed to go to an urgent hospital appointment.

But Todd told the jury it was him who went on the three-year spending spree after she befriended him in August 2013.

Prosecutor Paul Newcombe said Todd, from Catterick, North Yorkshire, persuaded him to change solicitors and write a new will – leaving his home and contents to her rather than a cat charity as he’d intended. 

Todd, pictured outside Teesside Crown Court, managed to convince the RAF veteran who served in Egypt to change his will leaving his estate to her rather than a cats' home

Todd, pictured outside Teesside Crown Court, managed to convince the RAF veteran who served in Egypt to change his will leaving his estate to her rather than a cats’ home

She also tried to gain Power of Attorney over his financial affairs, but the move never took place when the paperwork was not completed. 

Lisa Potts, a solicitor from Hunton and Garget in the market town, had a Lasting Power of Attorney and all his bank statements were sent to the firm. Five months after meeting staff at the practice, Ms Todd took the pensioner to a different solicitors office, where a friend worked, and said he wanted to swap. 

A new will was drawn up later in 2014, leaving Todd, who said to have been in ‘dire financial straits’, as chief beneficiary. ‘On November 5, Mr Wall signed the will in the presence of witnesses at the new solicitors office, and the defendant now stood, effectively, to inherit everything,’ said Mr Newcombe. ‘She had known him a little less than a year and a half.’ 

Ms Potts, who returned from maternity leave, became suspicious over the change and noticed her office had stopped receiving Mr Wall’s bank statements. Along with colleague Claire Richardson, she visited the then 95-year-old as there were fears he was being ‘manipulated’, said Mr Newcombe. 

Todd will be sentenced for stealing from Mr Todd at Teesside Crown early next year

Todd will be sentenced for stealing from Mr Todd at Teesside Crown early next year

After Todd’s arrest last June, the solicitors visited the pensioner’s home again, and Ms Richardson asked him about his will. In a recording played to the court he ‘I put a large part of my estate over to her’. Ms Richardson asks: ‘Do you still want that to happen, or shall I change it back?’ The man replies: ‘Not bloody likely.’ 

The solicitor asks: ‘You don’t want it to happen?’ He says: ‘No.’ ‘Would you like me to do a new will for you to sign in which you give everything you have to the Cats Protection (League) like you did the first time? Would you like me to change it back so this lady doesn’t get anything?’ He replies: ‘That’s right.’ During one of their visits, he appeared to get upset when asked: ‘Do you remember what you have given Stephanie in the will you have at present?’ He replied: ‘I’m not trying to be awkward, but I just can’t think.’ 

Ms Richardson told him he would get help replenishing his cupboards with food, and said: ‘I just want to put things right regarding your money. How do you feel about that?’ He said: ‘My mind isn’t clear enough to feel anything.’ The pensioner – now aged 98 and said to be profoundly deaf and often confused – was too frail to give evidence or be cross-examined.

Todd denied any wrongdoing, telling her trial: ‘There were no big wads of cash in my house, I have not paid off my credit card bills, I have not been on any holidays.’

Mr Newcombe accused her of being ‘thoroughly dishonest’ in her dealings with the former serviceman and his finances by not keeping a record of them. He also said she had failed to draw a line between the use of his money for himself and for her and used the cash card with reckless abandon to benefit herself. 

Jonny Walker, for Todd, of Shute Road, Catterick Garrison, said medical evidence was needed in the case and this would take time to gather. It is expected the defendant will be sentenced sometime during the New Year. 

A customer at her florist’s shop asked Todd in 2009 if she would stand for the Conservatives – she did, and was elected.

‘I quite enjoyed it, because I am a people person, and like to help people in the community,’ she said. ‘I am interested in homeless people, and old people.

‘The only thing I didn’t like was people never really work together, and we didn’t really get a lot done in a positive way.’

In 2013, she joined UKIP and remained a councillor until she lost her seat two years later.

‘I felt the Conservative Party were not really listening to people,’ she said.

She said she had been Mayor for a couple of years and had taken Mr Wall to events, such as a Remeberance Day service in Romanby, Northallerton.

She said she had been working from home for an MEP, and ‘it was quite well-paid for not a lot of work’, which allowed her to spend time with the pensioner.