Published: 14:00, 27 November 2015
Greedy pensioner Margaret Rigby today escaped going to prison, despite using her friend’s life savings to enjoy a life of luxury.
Ex-Samaritan Margaret Rigby had been given Power Of Attorney over the £235,000 bank account of her lifelong friend Barbara Lewis, who was suffering from dementia.
But Rigby, her daughter and ex-policeman son-in-law used the cash to have free stays in hotels, travel to America, and buy cars and a caravan.
Today Rigby, 80, was told by a judge, Recorder Deborah Charles: “You deluded yourself. You abused the trust of a lifelong friend. She is the true victim here. At least she isn’t here to witness what you did.”
Rigby, who is in poor health, was given a two-year jail sentence suspended for 18 months and told by the judge that if she had been 10 years younger and fitter, she would have gone straight to prison.
Her daughter, Jane MacDonald, a former NHS manager, received an 18-month sentence suspended for 12 months and Mrs MacDonald’s husband Allan was given a 12-month sentence suspended for 12 months.
A jury at Canterbury Crown Court heard that as Mrs Lewis’s mental health declined, Rigby bled the funds, lavishing gifts on herself and her family, including tickets to see Take That.
The judge added: “You are intelligent people. You knew your responsibilities but you behaved in a wholly dishonest way.”
Rigby, who had known Mrs Lewis for 40 years, splashed her friend’s savings on trans-Atlantic flights, a car, a caravan and kitchen appliances.
She also funded day trips, haircuts, dental bills, credit card bills, new reading glasses and gadgets such as a coffee machine at the ailing victim’s expense.
Mrs Lewis, who has since died, had lived in the Elliott House nursing home in Reculver Road, Herne Bay.
"You abused the trust of a lifelong friend. She is the true victim here. At least she isn’t here to witness what you did" - Recorder Deborah Charles, to Rigby
Prosecutor Dominic Connolly told a jury that the money had been spent on the Rigby family between 2009 and 2011.
He alleged they had used Mrs Lewis’s money on flights to America, tickets to a Take That concert, a £3,000 car, a £3,000 caravan, a £500 chicken house and a £500 coffee machine.
Her cash was also used for outings to Kenilworth, Dover and Warwick castles, vets bills, meals out and an £800 cooker.
Mr Connolly said: “Margaret Rigby abused her position of trust.
“She used the Power of Attorney to purchase gifts for herself and members of her family.
“The daughter and son-in-law were recipients of gifts, which they knew had come from Barbara Lewis’s money.”
Rigby, of Burnt Barn Cottages, Betteshanger, was found guilty by a jury of fraud totalling £57,000.
Her daughter Jane MacDonald, 56, of the same address, was found guilty of two charges of acquiring criminal property, while son-in-law Allan MacDonald, 60, was found guilty of one count.
Rigby’s granddaughter Rosie MacDonald, of Bingley Court, Canterbury, was acquitted of acquiring criminal property.
Prosecutor Dominic Connolly told how Rigby, who boasted of being a mason and a member of the charity Inner Wheel, had met Mrs Lewis in Coventry 40 years ago.
Rigby was herself a nurse, and had struck up a lasting friendship with Mrs Lewis, even joining holidays with her.
Mrs Lewis’s husband had passed away and in 2003 and she was diagnosed with dementia.
She sold her £250,000 home in the Midlands and Rigby was given authority, despite Mrs Lewis’s son’s concerns, to control the money.
Rigby had denied the charges, claiming her pal, known to her as “Bobby”, had been generous.
Mr Connolly said: “She thought the cooker and coffee machine were the sort of gifts Bobby would have wanted her to make.”
Mrs Lewis’s savings dwindled from £235,000 to £96,000, the court heard.
More by this authorPaul Hooper