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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Hairdresser stole grandad’s savings to pay drug debts

A WHITEHAVEN hairdresser who was desperate to pay off a cannabis debt stole the life savings of her 78-year-old grandfather.

Leah Patrickson, 21, repaid the trust and kindness of widower Benjamin Curwen by fleecing him, even though he had readily given her cash for nights out in the past, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

But Judge Peter Hughes QC drew back from jailing her yesterday after the prosecution said her victim could not bear to see that happen.

Gerard Rogerson, prosecuting, said Mr Curwen, a former school caretaker, moved to Copeland Avenue in Whitehaven so he could be next to his daughter Susan Hornsby and her family.

The family – including the defendant – were frequent visitors to his house. “The family then moved away to Manchester,” said the prosecutor.

Mr Rogerson said the pensioner liked Patrickson and was always happy to help her. He had on occasions given her £40 or £50 when she stayed so she could go out.

“He said she only ever had to ask him if she wanted more,” Mr Rogerson said.

Mr Curwen lived on small pensions from his job and the state, and kept any money he saved in a locked wardrobe.

On two occasions – in August and in September last year – Patrickson stole cash from the wardrobe.

The second time, unbeknown to the pensioner, Patrickson came to his home and, finding that Mr Curwen was not at home, she persuaded a relative that she needed to get into the house to collect some of her clothes.

She stole a total of £2,600.

When he discovered the money was missing, the family contacted Patrickson and was told she would not return to Whitehaven.

Mr Rogerson went on to describe the effect of the thefts on Mr Curwen.

The pensioner told police: “It has really upset me, that my own granddaughter would steal my money.

“I never thought she would have done that. I would have given her money if she was in trouble. All she had to do was ask me.”

Mr Rogerson said the two thefts, both of which Patrickson admitted, had aggravated the pensioner’s ulcer. He wanted her to be punished but could not live with it if she were to be jailed as a result, he said.

Richard English, for Patrickson, said she was disgusted with herself. “She regrets deeply what she has done,” said the barrister.

He said Patrickson had become heavily addicted to cannabis, to the extent that she was spending £200 a week on the drug and got into debt. Having borrowed £300 from a loan-shark, she was frightened, and now on antidepressants.

Judge Hughes told the defendant, now of Lyme Grove, Droylsden, Manchester: “You can’t stoop much lower than stealing the life savings of your own grandparent.”

He said he would have seriously considered jailing her had it not been for her grandfather’s express wishes that this should not happen.

Noting that she needed support and advice from the Probation Service, the judge imposed 12-month supervision order, with 200 hours unpaid work and a four-month 9pm to 6am curfew.

Patrickson must repay her grandfather at a rate of £10 per week for the first year and £15 a week thereafter until £1,250 is repaid.

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