Carer who swindled elderly woman avoids jail term

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“If you can’t trust the people who look after you, then who can you trust?”

Jennifer Burns, of Gauldry, helped herself to £950 from the bank account of Dr Alexina McWhinnie - a renowned social researcher in assisted conception at Dundee University until her retirement.

Burns targeted Dr McWhinnie - who received an MBE from Prince Charles for her work in 2010 - after the trusting pensioner gave her her bank card and PIN number to withdraw cash on her behalf.

But Burns instead used it to withdraw hundreds of pounds that she pocketed for herself.

Dundee Sheriff Court heard today (Tuesday) that Burns gave Dr McWhinnie £250 of the cash - but kept £700 for herself.

Dr McWhinnie said: “If you can’t trust the people who look after you, then who can you trust?”

Fiscal depute John Adams told the court: “The complainer is a 91-year-old female whose family employs care services to assist her.

“On December 19 her son came to stay with her in the run up to Christmas and was checking her bank records when he realised something had gone awry.

“They reconciled this with information from the care firm and it was realised the accused had been the person there on the relevant dates.

“The complainer accepts that at some point she had given the card and PIN to the accused and asked her to withdraw money for her.

“But these transactions were not authorised and the total amount involved is £950.

“When she was charged she said ‘I’ve never done anything like this before - I feel terrible’.”

Burns, 27, of Maryknowe, admitted two charges of theft committed on dates between November 15 and December 14 last year.

Defence solicitor Scott Norrie said: “She had accumulated a debt of some £2000 during a previous relationship that subsequently broke down.

“She had a reasonable relationship with the complainer and they got on well.

“She saw the opportunity to clear some of those debts and abused the trust of this lady.

“She lost her job as a result - but living with her parents continued to put up the pretence of having a job, leaving for work each morning and coming back at night.

“She is utterly ashamed of her actions.”

Sheriff Lorna Drummond QC imposed a community payback order with 120 hours unpaid work, one year’s supervision and ordered her to pay £700 in compensation.

She said: “You are a young person and a first offender.

“But this was a very old lady that you took advantage of and that’s just not acceptable.”

Dr Alexina McWhinnie said she was “foolish” to give her bank card and PIN to Burns.

She said: “I foolishly asked her (Burns) on one occasion if she would mind going to the cash machine for me as I struggle to get down there.

“I didn’t realise straight away but somehow she must have been able to use my card over the next month.”

Dr McWhinnie said she contacted police after she noticed a large sum of money was missing from her account.

She said: “I was foolish to put temptation in her way, but if you can’t trust the people who look after you, then who can you trust?

“She took advantage of my trust and it left me shattered. I felt as if I’d been cheated and it made me realise how vulnerable I am.”