Disabled Godmersham widow Christine Stewart fleeced by friend hits out at 'laughable' sentence
Sally Lyndsell, who runs
a horse stud businesses, admitted defrauding a pensioner out
of thousands of pounds
by Paul Hooper and Jamie Bullen
A cancer-stricken widow fleeced out of £10,000 by a woman she
called her "surrogate granddaughter" has told of her anger after
she escaped going to prison.
Disabled Christine Stewart, 69, was befriended by Sally Lyndsell
after losing her husband James three years ago.
But the devious 38-year-old took advantage of the trusting
pensioner, milking her bank account of huge amounts of cash to fund
her lifestyle and horse stud business.
Even when Mrs Stewart realised the cash was going missing, she
did not suspect Lyndsell - fearing instead her bank card
had been cloned.
But the harsh reality eventually dawned on her and police were
Lyndsell, of Station Road, Chartham, was arrested and claimed
Mrs Stewart (pictured right) had memory loss.
She pleaded guilty at Canterbury Crown Court to defrauding
the widow of £10,629.
But the prosecution rejected her claims and said an accountant
believed the figure was nearer £18,000.
The greedy thief escaped being jailed – despite not paying a
single penny in compensation for her crime.
She was given an eight-month sentence - suspended for two
years - and ordered to do 240 hours of unpaid work.
Mrs Stewart, from Godmersham, said: "When my husband died she
latched on. I thought she was just being kind and trusted her
"It has just been a nightmare. We were good friends. I saw her
as my surrogate granddaughter.
"I don't want to ruin her, but I want what's mine. I was very
generous to her. I didn't take advantage and I just can't believe
she has been so unkind."
Mrs Stewart, who has breast cancer and suffers from arthritis,
cellulitis and a broken neck, had put money away to help her cope
in her old age.
The court heard her mobility was limited
"I don’t want to ruin her but I want what’s mine. I was very generous to her. I didn’t take advantage and I just can’t believe she has been so unkind..." – Christine Stewart
and she had been
confined to her home – apart from "odd trips out" – and needed the
help of friends for her daily needs.
She gave Lyndsell her bank card and pin number
to pay for shopping and odd bits, even forking out for Lyndsell's
expensive vet bill and insurance on a car she had let her
But she grew suspicious when more than £3,000 cash was withdrawn
in one month.
Lyndsell was arrested soon after, but - despite her
deviousness - Mrs Stewart says she still misses her one-time
The pair have known each other through Lyndsell's mother for 14
Mrs Stewart said: "I miss her. I just can't understand why she
did it to me.
"If she asked me for help I would have helped her.
"I have been ostracised from the community for calling the
police. They [the community] said I was brainwashed.
"I don't want to see her again. That is why I didn't come to
court. I would have fallen apart."
Mrs Stewart says she intends to go through the civil courts
to claw back the money Lyndsell stole.
She added: "Why should she get away with it? She's guilty and
she gets an eight-month suspended sentence. What is that? You know
how quickly time goes.
"The court's decision is laughable. I've never broken the law
yet I'm the one being punished. I'm not going to let her get away
Sally Lyndsell was
sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court
Prosecutor Ian Foinette told the court Lyndsell plundered huge
sums of money from Mrs Stewart's bank account on a daily basis as
she took advantage of the ill pensioner.
He said: "Unwisely as it turned out, Mrs Stewart gave the
defendant not only her bank card but also the PIN number."
But Mr Foinette said that when Lyndsell was arrested "she
took a rather different view of the relationship".
He added: "In the early part of the police interview she was
less than flattering about Mrs Stewart and indeed made a number of
remarks which suggested the relationship was an uneasy one.
"But Mrs Stewart had provided her with financial assistance with
vet bills, services in relation to her horses. She also loaned her
a vehicle and paid for the insurance and another £500 for damage
after an accident."
Mr Foinette revealed how Lyndsell had withdrawn £300 sums on 11
separate days in April last year and £250 on another – all behind
the widow's back.
Carer stole £13k from 92-year-old deaf man she was looking
Peter Alcock, defending, said: "She is extremely remorseful and
is extremely sorry for what she did. She did provide much
He said Lyndsell wanted to repay her victim and had £2,000
in a bank account.
Mr Alcock added if she was jailed she would lose her home
and handed in letters, including one from her 14-year-old son, who
claimed he was bullied after news of his mother's arrest was
Mr Alcock said: "She has already received significant punishment
herself. She has suffered stress and anxiety, depression and she is
ashamed of what she has done. This was completely out of
Judge Recorder Ed Connell told Stewart: "It would seem you
treated Mrs Stewart's money as your own and things spiralled very
quickly out of control. You convinced yourself that she had money
and wouldn’t miss money you took for yourself.
"I hope you appreciate how close you have come to going straight
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