A 39-YEAR-OLD carer from St Helens was sent to prison for six years today after pleading guilty to stealing more than £325,000 from those closest to her.

Claire Roughley, of Newfields, Eccleston had previously pleaded guilty to four counts of theft and one count of fraud, using funds from her parents, grandparent, and a quadriplegic older woman to fund her “all-consuming gambling addiction”.

Peter Hussey, prosecuting, explained to the court how over a period of six years, Roughley used her knowledge of working as a bank manager to steal hundreds of thousands of pounds from her unassuming victims, as well as fraudulently setting up a credit card in the name of the elderley woman she cared for.

Her dishonesty started in January 2014 when she took control of her father’s bank account without his knowledge, preying on his vulnerability and lack of financial awareness to consistently deposit his money.

Working all his life as a gardener for St Helens Council, Raymond Roughley, 64, believed his £50k in life savings and pension schemes meant he could live the remainder of his life comfortably and without financial worry.

In a written statement read to the court, Raymond explained his “whole world was turned upside down” as he learned that his daughter – whom he trusted completely – had reduced his life savings down to zero.

Carrying on her deceit until her arrest in March 2020, Roughley deposited a total of £91,437.83 out of her father’s bank account.

St Helens Star: Claire Roughley appeared at Liverpool Crown Court on Monday, October 11Claire Roughley appeared at Liverpool Crown Court on Monday, October 11

Mr Hussey told the court that during the same period, Roughley also had access to her mother’s – Delwyn Roughley – bank account without permission, stealing a total of £158,738.70 from her.

Mr Hussey told the court: “Roughley manipulated her parents' bank accounts, took advantage of their financial naivety […] and used her knowledge of the banking system [to steal from them].

“Her parents have found it incredible and devastating that their daughter could do such a thing and their worlds fell apart since the discoveries.”

Roughley’s third charge of fraud was against her late grandmother, Theresa Leyland, whom she stole £58,221 from.

Although Theresa, who suffered with dementia and died aged 95 in 2019, bequeathed her granddaughter £6k in her will, Roughley used up all the funds in her estate, while her funeral was unpaid for 10 months.

Aware of her dishonesty, Roughley still read out a eulogy for her grandmother and spoke about her life at her funeral – something that is said to deeply trouble Delwyn.

The final two victims of Roughley’s dishonesty were Geoffrey, 74, and Jean Almond, 70, from Eccleston.

Hussey explained that Mrs Almond is quadriplegic and suffers from multiple sclerosis, and for seven years, Roughley was a “trusted” and “valued member of Jean’s care team”.

Unable to use her arms and therefore unable to press her pin number at cash machines, Roughley was entrusted as the only member of the care team to have access to Mrs Almond’s accounts.

Using the same tactics as she had deployed on members on her family, Roughley deposited a total of £17,200 from Mrs Almond’s bank account.

Additionally, she falsely created a bank account in Mrs Almond's name to deposit a further £8,698 of funds into her account.

The court was also told how Roughley duped two friends during this period, using their PayPal accounts as an additional means to transfer funds from her victim's accounts to her own.

Hussey said that although the banks have footed most of the bill to repay the victims, this hasn't covered the full amount of the losses with the Roughley's still in thousands of pounds of debt.

In addition to this - and the terrible credit score this has created for the victims - the events have also had a serious, lasting impact on their mental health.

Both of her parents are now on anti-depressants and anxiety tablets as they come to terms with the reality of their daughter's crimes, while the Almonds have been “emotionally affected very deeply” and have not found another carer due to a complete lack of trust.

Jeremy Lasker, defending, said that while there was “no excuse” for what Roughley did, the purpose of her actions was “not to live a life of luxury but to fund a gambling addiction”.

Mr Lasker said: “What began as a flutter grew and grew into an all-consuming addiction that took over her life.

“When she was arrested, [Roughley] was actually relieved as she couldn’t see any way out.”

He asked the court to consider the case as an addiction, in addition to Roughley's previous good character, guilty pleas and genuine remorse for what she had done.

Taking these factors into consideration, Judge Imran Shafi sentenced Roughley to four years for each count of theft running concurrently, in addition to two years running consecutively for her charge of fraud.

This means Roughley was imprisoned for a total of six years, yet will be released on licence after three years.

Judge Shafi said: “This is an exceptional case […] where each victim in their own way is vulnerable and deserving of being treated with respect.

“Through your charm and deceit you have systematically stolen every penny from their accounts […] and left them penniless and in debt.

“In respect to your father, he is traumatised that this has happened by his own daughter.

“You have wreaked utter carnage on your victims who continue to have psychological harm impacted on them.

“While online gambling companies need to be aware of the destruction they can cause […] this can only be a custodial sentence.”