An Oxford councillor has admitted to taking over £100,000 from Mrs Beryl gittens account in installments between March 2005 and January 2012. Gittens, an alzheimer’s sufferer was 92 years old when she died in 2012.
Michael roques QC for the prosecution told Oxford Crown Court that Morgan had stolen nearly £80,000 in cash and £75,000 through transfers into his bank account.
“There were a number of cash withdrawals, including some in las Vegas while the defendant was on holiday there,” he said.
“A number of withdrawals were made at motorway service stations and it transpires that these have £500 jackpot fruit machines at them.
“There was money going on casino slot machines and it became apparent that Morgan was using Beryl gittens’ money for gambling.”
The court was also told how John Morgan met Mrs. gittens and her late husband Bill at a pub they owned in hermitage, Berkshire, where Morgan was a regular.
She wrote a will in 2004 that granted Morgan and roger gittens, who lives in australia, power of attorney and specified that Morgan would get £5,000 from her estate as thanks for his friendship.
Mrs gittens moved into a care home in Wantage, Oxfordshire on the advice of doctors in the September of that year and it is believed that Morgan began siphoning money from her account six months later.
With her husband’s army pension, a State pension, life savings and £137,500 from the sale of her flat, the estate was originally worth nearly £250,000, the court heard.
Although Morgan admitted to taking the money, he denies acting dishonestly. The 75 year old claimed that gittens had asked him to gamble her money away after she died in 2005, in order to prevent her extended family from arguing over her inheritance. he claimed that Mrs gittens had said, “i want you to promise me that when i go, there is but a penny for those buggers to squabble over.”
Mr roques told the jury how “When asked, he said he made sure that all the money was taken out of the account, according to her wishes. he said she would have loved a visit but no family bothered. That is why they didn’t deserve any money.”
In court, Judge Mary Jane Mowat dismissed this point as a result of his gambling addiction, calling him, “a gambling addict with the addict’s capacity for denial and self-deception.”
Mowat went on to describe Morgan’s actions as one of the “biggest breaches of trust possible.”
Despite having taken the large sum of money from Mrs gittens, Morgan asked the council to pay for her funeral, rather than paying for it himself. The council agreed to do so, because her accounts were empty. Mrs gittens’s sister-in-law became suspicious after attending the low-key funeral service, and asked gittens’s son, roger gittens, to examine the accounts. Police were contacted upon the discovery that they were empty.
Det Sgt rachel Jackson who was involved in the case commented after the verdict, “Not only did Morgan defraud a vulnerable and elderly woman of a vast amount of money from the sale of her house, he also used his position on the council to arrange home care for her, lying about the victim’s financial affairs to cover the fact he had stolen all her savings.
“Despite pleading not guilty to the offence, a jury saw through his lies and found him guilty of stealing from the victim who thought he was a family friend and trusted him implicitly.”
Conservative councillor, Fiona roper told the Oxford Mail, “i’m shocked and saddened by what has happened to him.
“But it was a serious breach of trust and they had to make an example of him. it is such a big responsibility to have power of attorney.”
Morgan was the vice-chairman of Vale of White horse District Council’s planning committee, and had 21 years of experience working on various councils with no past record of dishonest behaviour.
Judge Mowat noted that spotless record, telling the court that it, “Stands in strange and startling contrast to the devious and shambolic way you dealt with Beryl gittens’ affairs.”
Morgan stepped down from his role as vice-chairman after admitting to the theft, but is still on the council. he has a 28 day right of appeal, after which he will cease to be a councillor if stripped of the position by a vote at full council.
Exeter student Tristan Mora commented,“it’s amazing what some people think they can get away with.
“It’s good he’s been brought to justice, but it doesn’t change the fact that this poor woman was manipulated for such a long period of time.
“It’s perhaps an awful insight into modern society that with families regularly divided by geography, people are often unable to give their relatives the care and attention that they might wish to, leading to situations such as this one where a vulnerable person was ruthlessly exploited.”
There will be a hearing on the 3rd of april to attempt to recover some of the stolen money from the defendant. The council lost approximately £76,000 towards the care of Mrs gittens in total.
By January 2011, her accounts were already so empty that the council had to pay the bills when she was moved to hungerford Care home.
Vale of White horse District Council declined to comment on the matter.