A CLEANER who stole £27,504 from an elderly relative suffering with dementia, while she was responsible for looking after her finances, has been jailed for 18 months.

Irene Ryan, aged 57, of Dearnley Avenue, Blackbrook, admitted stealing £27,504 and two charges of fraudulently gaining £4,000 and £10,000, from her aunt, Renee Robert’s bank account, at a hearing last month.

The thefts happened between October 2009 and February, 2010, whilst Ryan had power of attorney for her aunt, who lives in a care home.

Sentencing her at Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday, Recorder Mr J Bromley Davenport, QC, said: “This is obviously a very very sad case of a lady of previous good character who has fallen prey to temptation when put in a position of trust.

“You were able to take money from Renee Robert, a lady in her 80s, suffering from dementia, because you had taken steps to obtain power of attorney.

“You took it quite deliberately and only had second thoughts when confronted by the suspicion on others. You have suffered shame and humiliation in front of your family and friends.”

Ryan, a grandmother of six, sat in the dock, clasping her fingers, as she was told she would serve at least nine months.

Simon Duncan, prosecuting, said: ”The defendant occupied a position of trust in relation to the victim, her aunt, suffering from dementia.”

In July 2009, when her aunt was placed in residential care, Ryan sought power of attorney, with her brother, Richard Hulme, aged 83.

Mr Duncan, said: “The defendant was clear she wasn’t to use any of these funds for her own personal use or gift them to other people.”

Her brother raised the alarm when he received a letter from the Halifax.

In January 2010, relatives discovered large cash withdrawals had been made and funds transferred.

They asked Ryan for an explanation.

Initially, she refused to discuss the matter, but the following day she pushed a note through a relative’s door, with her aunt’s bank account card cut up into small pieces. She also repaid £3,400.

Police discovered Ryan had withdrawn £27,504 from her aunt’s account.

When interviewed, she said she had given £10,000 to her daughter, £7,994 as a loan to her son-in-law’s business and £1,800 to her husband for his car.

Ryan admitted using some of the money to clear her own debts and buy Christmas presents for her family.

Adrian Palmer, defending, described her as a caring, considerate person who was ashamed of the position she finds herself in’.

He said: “She is 57, a grandmother, who has retained her employment as a cleaner. If the money she had taken was used for a lavish lifestyle, she wouldn’t be working as a cleaner.”

Ryan looks after two of her grandchildren, aged two and six, whilst her daughter works.

DC Kirsty Miller, officer in charge of the case, said: “Irene Ryan has been convicted of a despicable offence.

“She exploited her position of trust of having power of attorney for a vulnerable, elderly relative, to steal from her.

“Fraud and theft are never victimless crimes. In these cases, they divide and devastate families.

“Merseyside Police is committed to ensuring that people who seek to financially exploit vulnerable members of our community are brought to justice.

“I would urge people to report any concerns they have for someone they know who may be subject to this sort of crime.”

Anyone with information on these kind of offences can call Police on 0151 709 6010 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.