Sneaky niece who stole almost £50,000 from elderly uncle must pay back just £800

A sneaky niece who stole almost £50,000 from her 88-year-old uncle has been ordered to pay back just £800.

Thieving Lillian Handysides helped herself to money from the retired shipyard worker in an effort to make sure she got most of the inheritance that would have been shared between herself and others when he died.

We reported previously how Handysides abused the position of trust she was in after being given access to the pensioner’s finances to help him.

Instead of buying things he needed and paying bills, she “used it as her own” and led a “nice lifestyle on the proceeds”, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

Handysides, 57, of Bodiam Road, Sunderland, denied four charges of theft but was found guilty of three of the offences, to the value of £48,904.

In January, Handysides was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation requirements.

Now her case has been back at court after prosecutors launched proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize any assets she has.

She was ordered to pay the £800 she has been found to have available to pay but if she comes into a windfall in future, she will be liable to surrender it until the full amount of her ill-gotten gains are paid off.

During the trial, the victim gave evidence, via television link, from his armchair at his home in South Shields.

He told jurors: “She was taking money off me, not helping me out.

“It was supposed to be saved up in the bank for such time I passed away.”

The pensioner, who said Handysides had “quite a few” holidays abroad, told the court he has since changed his will and added: “I’ve got no trust in her now for what she’s done.”

Prosecutor Ian Cook told the court the victim had “slowed down physically but there was no suggestion he had slowed down mentally” and was of “sound mind”.

Mr Cook said Handysides was a beneficiary in the victim’s will and added: “She would receive half of his estate and the remaining half would be divided between five grandchildren.

“What I say is that Lillian Handysides saw an opportunity to make her half share as big as possible, making sure there was as little as possible left in the estate so that when he did pass there was as little as possible for her to share with the other beneficiaries.”

The court heard the pensioner had over £20,000 from an inheritance in his bank and received another £20,000 from a bond, on top of his own money.

Mr Cook said the cash from the bond was transferred into Handysides account “for safe keeping”.

It was after a family holiday in Scotland, where the victim took ill and was admitted to hospital, that he became “suspicious” about the intentions of his niece.

Mr Cook said: “After a couple of days, the defendant returned home. She telephoned the complainant in Scotland and asked where his bank cards were, saying she needed to get him groceries.

“I say that is nonsense, he was in hospital in Scotland, 100 miles away, there as no need for groceries.

“This was when his suspicions were aroused.”

The court heard when the pensioner was released from hospital he made inquiries with his bank and found out one of his accounts had been closed and the £25,000 balance transferred to another account, under Handysides’ control.

Mr Cook told jurors: “She had taken control of the money and used it as her own.”

Nick Lane, defending, said previously that Handysides, who “maintains her innocence” has been in no trouble before or since the offences and is a low risk to the public.

Mr Lane said Handysides has a long history as a care worker and must have looked after “hundreds of people” without problem.

Chronicle Live – Sunderland