AN Astwood Bank pensioner who fleeced two elderly women of their savings has received a suspended prison sentence.

Francis Winters, aged 75, of Gorsey Lane, stole £8,000 from Sheila Mayneord and swindled Audrey Ashby out of £1,100.

Winters and his wife Brenda befriended Mrs Mayneord, who was partially blind, by reading to her. But when the 86-year-old was admitted to hospital, her family noticed irregularities in her Post Office account.

A large number of withdrawals over a three month period amounted to £2,900. A further £5,100 was taken from her HSBC bank account.

Mrs Mayneord has since died.

Winters got cash from Mrs Ashby by getting her to sign blank cheques, then filling them in for larger amounts than she had specified to pay her bills.

In November, a jury at Worcester Crown Court found Winters guilty of one count of theft and four of fraud.
He was cleared of a further count of fraud against Mrs Ashby.

After the trial began, Mrs Winters - who was also charged with the £8,000 theft - became too ill to attend court.

Judge Patrick Thomas QC told the jury not to deliberate on her charge.

Prosecutor Daniel White said it was not in the public interest to stage a retrial for 77-year-old Mrs Winters and she was given a not guilty verdict.

At Birmingham Crown Court on Thursday, December 13, Francis Winters was given an 18 month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay back £1,711 which will be split between Mrs Ashby, and Mrs Mayneord’s family.