Tuesday 10 December 2019

Care worker thief who stole €14k to fund lavish lifestyle is jailed

Danielle McDermott
Danielle McDermott

George Jackson

A care worker who stole more than £11,000 from the life savings of two of her elderly patients has been given a nine-month sentence.

Danielle McDermott (25) targeted the 89-year-old and 75-year-old in what Judge Philip Babington told Londonderry Crown Court was among the lowest form of offending he had seen in several years.

McDermott, whose address cannot be made public because of an existing death threat against her partner, admitted committing the thefts on various dates between August 2013 and May 2014.

The daughter of McDermott's first victim, Dinah Porter (89), had suspected the care worker of being behind her mother's money shortage. On the morning of one of McDermott's twice-daily visits, Mrs Porter's daughter, Laura, placed marked bank notes in her mother's purse and noted their serial numbers.

She then placed her mobile phone in her mother's bedroom, with the camera recording McDermott's visit.

In footage captured by the phone, the defendant was seen taking notes from the elderly woman's purse.

A total of £240 had been placed in the purse, but after McDermott's visit, only £40 was left behind.

The theft was reported to the PSNI, who informed McDermott's employers, the Western Health And Social Care Trust.

The defendant was then suspended from her job, and a senior trust officer carried out an immediate review of her other clients. In conjunction with the police investigation, the probe revealed that another of McDermott's patients, who was suffering the onset of dementia, had seen the money in her bank account dwindle from £11,195 to just £474.

A closer examination of the that victim's account showed 29 withdrawals.

A prosecution barrister said McDermott had used the stolen money to fund a lavish lifestyle for her and her partner.

That included regular holidays abroad, overnight stays in hotels, meals in restaurants and expensive spa treatments. In total, McDermott spent £2,000 on flights abroad alone.

McDermott also used the stolen money to pay for car insurance and obtain loans.

Judge Babington said it seemed the defendant was a regular user of cocaine at the time of her offending, but she no longer used the drug.

He added it was not insignificant that she got engaged in March 2014 to a partner who was allegedly emotionally abusive to her. Despite that, the relationship is continuing.

Judge Babington told the court one of McDermott's victims was "confused and upset" while the other "really did not know what was happening".

"The case in many ways is even more serious because of that," he added. "It is clear that both injured parties were taken advantage of because they were vulnerable and the defendant was in a relationship of trust with them.

"Unfortunately, as people live longer, more and more people need the assistance of carers to enable them to live in their own homes."

McDermott, who showed no emotion as she was jailed, will serve half of the nine-month sentence in prison and the remainder on licence after being released from custody.

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