A cabbie who stole from vulnerable and elderly passengers has been banned from driving taxis for ten years.
The rare restriction followed 45-year-old Lorraine Heusser admitting eight charges of pilfering from people in Whitstable – including a 91-year-old victim.
Now a judge, branding her “mean and despicable”, has slapped her with a court order preventing her from driving a cab until 2024.
She left Canterbury Crown Court shielding her face and then drove away wearing a Guy Fawkes-style mask.
But Heusser, of Cordingham Close, Seasalter, avoided an immediate jail sentence after pleading guilty to all the thefts.
Judge Adele Williams told her that if she had gone to trial and forced her victims, aged between 24 and 91 years old, to give evidence she would have been sent down immediately.
After initially denying the offences her lawyer asked for an indication from the judge for a likely sentence if she changed her pleas to guilty.
And after hearing she wouldn’t be jailed immediately, Heusser promptly admitted her guilt.
Instead she received a 12-month jail sentence suspended for two years and was told she had to remain under partial house arrest for the next six months – unable to leave her home between 9pm and 6am.
She was also ordered to repay the £742 she took from her victims at £20 a week – after her lawyer Kerry Waite told the judge she was now on benefits.
The judge also heard Heusser was quizzed three times by police, but twice no action was taken, and even after she was eventually charged and bailed she carried on stealing.
Prosecutor James Ross revealed how Heusser – who worked for the Whitstable Taxi Company – deliberately targeted mainly the elderly or vulnerable.
“These offences, in my judgement, are mean and despicable. They are thefts from victims who were either elderly and or vulnerable” - Judge Adele Williams
On February 27, 2013, Heusser responded to a call to collect 83-year-old Violet Wood who wanted to go shopping in Tesco.
Mr Ross said: “Mrs Wood has mobility issues after recently recovering from a heart attack. She handed the taxi driver her bag as she got in. When she drove off Mrs Wood noticed her £20 purse was missing from her bag as was £55 in cash.”
Mrs Wood later alerted police who spoke to Heusser but no action was taken against her, the court heard.
In September 2013, Lacey Smith, a 24-year-old woman left her handbag in the porch at her parents’ address. At midnight, Heusser turned up to collect a friend of Ms Smith.
The prosecutor added: “She thought it strange that rather than sit in the taxi, Heusser stood in the porch. Ms Smith noticed later that her bag and purse and £250 had gone missing.
Again Heusser was quizzed by police but no action was taken, the court heard.
On October 22, the cabby struck again with a 66-year-old Tracy Edwards who wanted to go from Whitstable town centre to her home address – again a purse and £20 went missing.
Also in the summer of 2013, Heusser stole from 79-year-old Kathleen Beach, who had a hip replacement operation, and ordered a taxi from Tesco in Whitstable.
The driver told her to hand over her bag while she struggled to get inside the cab and when it was returned Heusser zipped it up.
Mr Ross said: “She was then seen to drive away with her fist clenched... and £190 was missing."
The court also heard that during the summer, 83-year-old Mary Cook was targeted twice – first when £10 vanished, and £30 on a second occasion.
On March 4 this year Heusser stole from 91-year-old Enid Dale, who had booked a taxi from Whitstable to her home, and was told to hand over her bag as she got into the vehicle.
Mr Ross said: “Once seated inside the car, Heusser put the Ms Dale’s bag into the foot well and when it was handed back the victim noticed it was lighter. The purse, worth £10, and £132 in cash and bank cards had gone."
Ms Dale called Whitstable Taxis and was told to alert the police and Heusser was bailed but on May 9 she struck again.
This time her victim was 90-year-old Doreen Parrot who was collected from Chestifield Medical Centre and driven to her home, where she found £20 was missing from her bag.
Mr Waitt, defending, said Heusser now wished to apologise to her victims and felt “great shame” about what she did.
Judge Williams told her: “These offences, in my judgement, are mean and despicable. They are thefts from victims who were either elderly and or vulnerable.”
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