Thursday 19 July 2018

GP who fleeced Alzheimer's patient out of €12,520 avoids jail

Dr Michelle Mellotte
Dr Michelle Mellotte

A disgraced doctor who fleeced an elderly Alzheimer's patient out of £10,000 (€12,520) has avoided prison.

Former GP Michelle Mellotte yesterday received a suspended sentence following her conviction for fraud by abuse of position.

The court was told that the Co Fermanagh doctor went to the wealthy patient's home and asked to borrow money after getting into financial difficulties.

She was given a cheque for £10,000 (€12,520) with a written endorsement that she would repay the money by the summer of 2010.

However, the 61-year-old, from Bannagh Road, Kesh, failed to return the sum for more than a year, only repaying it after the police launched an investigation into her actions.

The mother-of-six, who has since removed herself from the medical register, accepted that she was occupying a position in which she was expected to safeguard the financial interests of the pensioner but dishonestly abused it to obtain the money from him.

Mellotte targeted an elderly patient, Michael McGrory, who suffered from Alzheimer's.

Mr McGrory, who died in December 2012, lived in a remote area of Fermanagh for most of his life. The court heard that he had inherited a substantial amount of money from a relative in 1997, which the doctor was aware of.

Downpatrick Court heard that the victim's mental and physical health was deteriorating. His memory was also fading and he had been suffering from long-term health conditions.

In February 2010, Mellotte called to his home and spoke to his home help, saying that she needed to ask Mr McGrory for a favour as she was in a "bit of a diff".

Mr McGrory agreed to lend her the money and handed over a cheque for £10,000 (€12,520).

At the time, she was said to be in financial difficulty and was under pressure from her bank.

The cheque was placed into her account and paid out immediately to a number of people, one of whom was a patient of the defendant's.

Mellotte failed to repay the loan by the summer, and the following Easter - more than a year after she borrowed the money - she was confronted by home help worker Rosemary McElhill, who had significant concerns.

Ms McElhill was told not to worry about it and that the money would be paid back.

Judge Stephen Fowler QC said Mellotte failed to recognise the significance of the breach of trust she had committed, given that Mr McGrory was unlikely to remember lending her the cash.

The money was eventually repaid to Mr McGrory in November 2011, but by this stage Mellotte had been suspended by the General Medical Council and police were investigating the matter.

The defendant, who has no previous criminal record, was described by the judge as a woman of "good standing" who had worked in medicine for four decades.

The court heard that she helped some of her patients with their medical and financial needs and sometimes gave them money for rent and groceries.

Judge Fowler said: "She didn't think she had done anything wrong but now recognises that this was unorthodox and inappropriate."

Mellotte was suspended from her practice and removed herself from the medical register.

Judge Fowler said: "She has ended her career in a publicly inauspicious way. This is a significant punishment in itself."

Belfast Telegraph

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