Former foster mum jailed over thefts from elderly client at her care job

Joanne Heald
Joanne Heald

A cash strapped woman penned a fake reference to obtain a care job - then stole from one of her vulnerable clients.

Joanne Heald, 49, of Harwood Avenue, St Annes, is beginning a 10 month and two week jail term for her crimes - some of which were committed as her elderly victim was dying in hospital.

Sessions House

Sessions House

Preston's Sessions House Court heard she gained employment with Advanced Home Care in Kirkham after sending the bogus reference from an e-mail address that purported to be her ex employer.

Her family home had been repossessed, her business had failed, and she had entered into an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) to tackle her debts.

Preston Crown Court heard she went on to steal cash from pensioner Christine Woodhouse in Lytham St Annes.

She was only found out after her death, when officials found no money in her house and a lack of paperwork and cash cards.

Prosecuting, Lisa Worsley said a probe found the pensioner's bank card was used at Tesco eight times totalling £1,341.79, and cash withdrawals amounting to £2,750 were made at a nearby ATM - some coinciding with Heald's husband's loyalty card being used in the store.

Police searched the defendant's home on January 26 and when they searched the late pensioner's home they found possessions including her driving license, her house and garage keys, personal paperwork and bank statements in her garage.

In a police interview she said she had withdrawn the money to get food and cleaning products and a new hearing aid, but the investigation highlighted purchases unlikely to have been for the pensioner including alcohol and clothing.

Heald later admitted two offences of stealing cash, identification paperwork, a chequebook and a cash card from the woman, and two offences of fraud by using the pensioner’s debit card between September 27, 2016 and January 10, 2017.

Heald, who was supported in court by her husband and son, also admitted two counts of fraud regarding the fake employment reference.

Defending, Judith McCulloch said she had suffered a traumatic childhood and had previously been in an abusive relationship but had bettered herself.

She added: " She built up a prosperous and successful business created stability for her own child and has cared for foster children throughout the years.

" She felt she had formed a place for herself in life. She had self respect and the respect of others.

"Unfortunately things did not last.

" A foster child passed away whilst in her care. Three weeks later her dad died. Her business began to fail. She began drinking."

She said she had gained the job to support her family and had worked hard as a manager.

When her husband became ill, putting "further responsibility on her shoulders", Heald began stealing.

Judge Beverley Lunt ruled that she could not suspend the jail term.