Chapel St Leonards couple accused of fleecing neighbour, 96, out of £40k claim they ‘did nothing wrong’

News from the courts. ANL-161122-085540001
News from the courts. ANL-161122-085540001

A Chapel St Leonards couple accused of “fleecing” their elderly next door neighbour out of more than £400,000 told police they did nothing wrong, a jury was told.

Jason and Rebecca Bentley told police after their arrests that they cared for Patricia Reilly “24/7” and in return she promised to make them financially secure.

The jury at Lincoln Crown Court was told that when Jason Bentley was seen by officers he said “We all thought of Patricia Reilly as an adopted member of our family. Any money transferred over to us was with the consent, the knowledge and the blessing of Patricia Reilly. I never coerced of pressurised Patricia Reilly to give us money.”

Det Con Emily Wooll-Rivers added that Rebecca Bentley spoke of how Patricia Reilly was dependent on her and her husband for help.

Rebecca Bentley, in her interview, said “She said she would help us if we helped her to stay in her home. We did everything we could for her.”

The jury has heard that the Bentleys helped look after Mrs Reilly by cooking her meals, cleaning and walking her dog.

Justin Wigoder, prosecuting, said the Bentleys paid off their own mortgage and paid off their debts. They also bought an expensive car and a van with the money as well as using the cash for other things.

He said that Patricia Reilly, now 96, gave the couple her bank debit card and PIN number so that they could do her shopping and get withdraw cash through ATMs.

But the Bentleys are then alleged to have set up online banking for Mrs Reilly allowing them to remove money from her accounts whenever they wanted and without her knowledge.

The jury was told that Mrs Reilly, who now lives in a care home, later told police she had never used a computer in her life.

Mr Wigoder said that a total of £84,000 was removed in less than four months from Mrs Reilly’s accounts which was said to be for “Rebecca Bentley Care Fund” and a further £30,000 referenced as for “Jason Bentley Phoenix Care”.

£36,000 cash was withdrawn over two years using the old lady’s debit card ATMs. And Jason Bentley is alleged to have withdrawn £40,000 cash just 24 hours before police raided their home.

The couple are also alleged to have produced a bogus will which showed that the old lady intended to leave her bungalow and all her possessions to themselves. They persuaded friends to counter-sign the document but it was torn up because the friends were unhappy that they had not witnessed Mrs Reilly sign it herself.

Mr Wigoder said that Mrs Reilly’s real will left just £10,000 to Jason Bentley to provide for her pet dog with the rest of her estate being split amongst animal charities.

Justin Wigoder, prosecuting, told the jury “They took something like £420,000 all told.

“Mrs Reilly’s money was used by the Bentleys in a number of ways.

“They paid off significant debts. They paid off their mortgage. They bought an expensive car and an expensive van.

“She [Mrs Reilly] thought they were good neighbours. They looked after her and they would walk her dog. Rebecca would do the cleaning. They would drive her to appointments. They would cook for her and they would do her shopping.

“They had access to all her financial arrangements and they began to fleece her to a very, very significant extent.”

A police investigation was launched after Mrs Reilly’s solicitor was granted power of attorney over her financial affairs and discovered large amounts of money were being removed from her accounts.

The Bentleys later told police that Mrs Reilly had offered to pay off their mortgage and wanted them to be debt free. They denied taking money without permission.

Jason Bentley, 45, and Rebecca Jayne Bentley, 45, both of Elliott Way, Chapel St Leonards, each deny a charge of fraud against Patricia Reilly by abusing their position as carer and removing money from her bank account between 29 December 2008 and 5 March 2015.

Jason Bentley together with his mother Denise Philbin, 66, of Connaught Drive, Chapel St Leonards, denies a further charge of the theft of £5,495 from Mrs Reilly between 1 and 20 September 2013.

The trial continues.