Addict stole 72-year-old’s funeral cash

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A lodger helped himself to a pensioner’s hard-saved £4,200 funeral cash to blow on drugs after the victim revealed he slept on the money.

Michael Swales had been staying with family friend and ex-workmate Trevor Barker and knew the vulnerable 72-year-old had stashed the cash in a bag, deep between his two mattresses.

The victim trusted his long-time pal Swales completely and had treated him like a son. He wanted him to know where the money was in case anything happened to him so his funeral could be paid for and nobody put to any trouble, Pennine magistrates heard.

Jobless Swales (41), who has never broken the law before, is now facing a possible jail term, after admitting theft of £4,250 from Mr Barker at his home in Brierfield, on December 2nd. The defendant, of Church Meadows, Colne, will be sentenced at a later date and was bailed on condition he does not contact the victim and or go to his property. The Bench chairman told him the offence was in breach of a high degree of trust.

Prosecutor Parveen Akhtar told the hearing Mr Barker was a friend of the Swales family and, about 18 months ago, the defendant turned up at his door asking if he could stay with him. The victim put Swales up in his front bedroom and the defendant was there for about nine months.

The prosecutor said the victim’s home was secure and gated and, when the money was discovered missing, there were no signs of any break-in or entry.

Swales moved out after nine months, but did go back on occasions. She added: “When Mr Barker was checking his money, he noticed £4,200 had gone missing. That had been taken out. He has allowed Michael Swales to reside at his property and clearly he’s been taken advantage of.”

Nick Cassidy (defending) said the offence was “truly despicable”. Swales was the first to accept the discomfort the victim must feel and was “truly remorseful and truly sorry for his actions”.

Mr Cassidy said Swales had made a “grave error of judgement”. He had helped the complainant with chores and tasks and they had had, in the main, a very good relationship. He said: “This defendant is a man of good character. He has, unfortunately, been battling with a drug addiction for some time. On the day of this offence, he had relapsed. He was trying to fund a drug addiction while reliant on benefits.