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A POST office clerk has been sentenced for stealing almost £1,000 from a trusting elderly widower she was supposed to be helping.
Teesside Crown Court heard yesterday that Janine McFarlane was working at a post office in Skerne Park, Darlington, when she preyed on an 86-year-old widower and another victim.
The court heard that McFarlane, 43, had known the the widower's family for many years and was considered a friend, so they trusted her to help him with card transactions and bills he paid at the post office.
However, she went on to steal £967.76 from him over a period of more than three years.
The court heard of one instance where the pensioner was given a receipt by McFarlane for withdrawing £200 from his account but he only received £100.
When confronted by the victim's daughter, McFarlane said it had been a genuine mistake and returned £100.
Sadly, due to his age and the effects of grief from losing his wife of 52-years, the family thought that he was confused about amounts of his cash going missing.
But an incident in February prompted further investigation and after examining post office CCTV footage, McFarlane was sacked from the job she had held for 15-years.
It was also discovered that she had stolen £210 from another victim.
In statements read to the court, the first victim's family said that he had ‘lost hope’ after McFarlane’s ‘betrayal’.
He has since found it hard to trust people and was now living in a care home, his family said.
Mitigating, the court heard that McFarlane, of Hammond Drive, Darlington, suffered periods of depression and ill-health following the death of her 18-year-old son in a car accident in April, 2015.
She took time off work and accrued debt, including more than £2,000 in rent arrears.
Judge Stephen Ashurst told her: “I am prepared to accept that a combination of grief and mental health consequences allowed your judgement to be lowered to the extent that it did.” He also noted McFarlane’s early guilty pleas to the thefts and the remorse she had shown which included contacting her victim's daughter to apologise and offer to repay the money.
Judge Ashurst added: “You are obviously in disgrace locally and it will take you a very long time, I would imagine, to live down this dishonest block which of course led to you being sacked from the post office in Darlington.”
He imposed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, with 100-hours unpaid work. She was also ordered to repay the money.