Published: 00:01, 03 October 2015
A conniving pensioner entrusted with a friend’s life savings blew the majority on luxuries as her friend slowly deteriorated away with dementia.
Margaret Rigby, a former Samaritan charity worker, had power of attorney over frail Barbara Lewis’s £235,000 bank account.
As Mrs Lewis’s mental health declined, Rigby, 80, bled the funds, lavishing gifts on herself, her daughter and her son-in-law, a former policeman.
Canterbury Crown Court heard how 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 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.
Prosecutor Dominic Connolly told a jury that the money had been spent on the Rigby family between 2009 and 2011.
"Margaret Rigby abused her position of trust. She used the Power of Attorney to purchase gifts for herself and members of her family" - Dominic Connolly, prosecuting
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.”
This week, 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.
The 23-year-old wept in the public gallery as a jury returned guilty verdicts against her parents and grandmother.
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 her on holiday.
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.
"What's amazing is that we are talking about two former nurses and a former policeman who abused my mum's trust. They fooled everyone" - Nick Lewis
Mr Connolly said: “She thought the cooker and coffee machine were the sort of gifts Bobby would have wanted to make.”
Mrs Lewis’s savings dwindled from £235,000 to £96,000, the court heard.
The three will be sentenced later this month.
For Nick Lewis it was never about the money. For him it was about justice being served.
For days the 49-year-old heard how a family friend had systematically fleeced his mother’s bank accounts to fund a lifestyle of foreign holidays, dog crates and chicken coops.
Mr Lewis, a business consultant, listened to Margaret Rigby’s lies that his mother was happy to see her bank account plundered.
“I have waited a long time for this day,” Mr Lewis told KentOnline's sister paper, the Kentish Gazette.
“I objected to Margaret Rigby getting power of attorney in 2003 and everything that I feared would happen has happened.
“What’s amazing is that we are talking about two former nurses and a former policeman who abused my mum’s trust. They fooled everyone.
“You have to listen to what they spent my mum’s money on – and they’re claiming that it’s what she would have wanted?
“They made 1,100 separate transaction on her accounts.”
Mr Lewis’s connection to Rigby stretches back years.
He recalls how she cultivated a veneer of respectability with her various community groups and charity interests.
It was the mask of a woman with a black heart adept at the dark arts of manipulation and deception.
Mr Lewis, who works as a business development consultant and lives in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, lost his mother almost four years ago.
He said: “Before she passed away I was suspicious of them – as long ago as 2003, in fact.
“We are talking about a woman who was my Scout leader, who worked for the church, raised money for Masonic charities and even did work for the witness service at court.
“They manipulated my mum and abused her trust. But this has never been about the money. It has been about getting justice.”