A Chapel st Leonards man accused of taking over £400,000 from his elderly next door neighbour told a jury that it was one of her wishes for he and his wife to be debt free.
Jason Bentley told the jury at Lincoln Crown Court yesterday that he and his wife Rebecca cared for Patricia Reilly after she suffered a heart attack in 2011 and she agreed to pay off his mortgage and clear debts to loan companies.
Bentley told the jury he and his wife struggled financially after he suffered a fall from a church roof while fitting an alarm system which prevented him from working for several months.
He told the jury that he cared for Mrs Reilly, now 96, “24/7” often staying overnight at her home which allowed her to continue to live in her bungalow rather than move into a nursing home.
“Pat knew about my financial situation. It was one of her wishes for us to be mortgage and debt free.
“It started with the mortgage arrears a few years ago. She paid the arrears for us.
“She wanted us to be debt free so the mortgage was paid off. Also other debts were paid.
“I was extremely grateful. It took a lot of pressure off us. She mentioned on numerous occasions about paying off the mortgage.”
He denied hiding from Mrs Reilly that he was removing thousands of pounds from her bank account without her knowledge.
He said “I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
“I loved her. She wasn’t just a neighbour. She was the head of our family. She was like a second mother to me.”
The prosecution say that Jason Bentley and his wife Rebecca Bentley “fleeced” Mrs Reilly out of £420,000 after gaining control of her bank account and debit card.
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.
Rebecca Bentley told the jury that her husband controlled the family finances and he had “a financial arrangement” with Mrs Reilly which involved the old lady paying for shopping and heating oil for the Bentleys in return for the care they gave her.
She said “I gave up my job at Butlins to be with Pat at all times.
“I had no reason to doubt that everything was genuine and above board.
“I trusted everything my husband told me and I had no reason to ask any questions.”
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’s 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. Jason Bentley also denied theft of £5,495 and was cleared by the jury on the directions of the judge.
The trial continues.