Winterton great grandmother left almost penniless after fraud

THE family of a “born and bred” Winterton great-grandmother told of their shock and anger after the woman who defrauded her out of thousands of pounds was jailed.

Known as Auntie Joan by many in the community, 86-year-old Joan Watson was left nearly penniless after the woman, who moved into her former home, used her identity to withdraw �3,715 from a Lloyds TSB account.

And having pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation, on Tuesday, a tearful Julia Steward was given a 42-day sentence at Great Yarmouth Magistrates’ Court.

Steward, 55, moved into the council-owned bungalow in August, two months after Mrs Watson moved out to go into a nearby care home as she was suffering with vascular dementia.

The bank had refused to transfer the account of Mrs Watson, who had worked at what is now Winterton Primary School for nearly half a century, to her new care home and despite the efforts of her family, continued to send letters to her previous address.

Defending at the case on Wednesday, Rob New explained how his client had become largely estranged from her family, especially after the recent marriage to her Tunisian husband. He added that she also suffered from a number of financial and medical difficulties.

He said that she had been moved from her previous address by the council after being a victim of violence and that she had not known the situation of the victim.

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He said: “There was no targeting of Mrs Watson, and she certainly had no idea of her particular conditions and ailments.

“She never meant to do that harm when she behaved in that way and she is desperately sorry.”

It was on September 23 last year that Steward went to Lloyds TSB at Yarmouth Market Place with a bank letter and attempted to gain access to a new debit card and pin number.

Reading out a statement from his client, Mr New said: “I felt sick with what I was contemplating but couldn’t stop myself, and I was praying they would say no, but they didn’t. I went and home and was sick.” The court then heard that she went on to make a number of withdrawals using the debit card from ATMs in Yarmouth and Gorleston with money initially being spent on furnishings, including �600 on new carpeting.

And on October 3 she flew out on a self-confessed “holiday” to Tunisia to see her husband and help him with visa troubles, where she spent the majority of the money.

Steward was caught after Mr Watson’s family were finally allowed to see her bank statements and were shocked to discover she had only �2.22 left in her account. After CCTV footage was checked, on October 18 an employee at the bank recognised the defendant and contacted the police.

She had intended to set up an internet account so she did not have to go in person. Upon being taken to Yarmouth station, she confessed.

Sentencing, magistrate Michael Flores said he had been “deeply affected” by the victim impact statement and commented on “the immense trauma” caused, and noted that it had not just been one incident, but several.

After the hearing, the victim’s daughter Mrs Bishop, 66, said she was pleased with the verdict. She said: “My mother was born and bred in Winterton and has lived there all her life. Our family was rocked by this. I’m glad she went down. Now when we go to see my mother because of this she keeps on asking if she has enough money, she can’t understand what’s happened.

“The whole community is shocked and they can’t believe it.”

She also criticised the bank, who she said had apologised. They have repaid the money into Mrs Watson’s account.