A COUPLE have spoken of their anger at a care worker who was jailed for stealing
A COUPLE have spoken of their anger at a care worker who was jailed for stealing more than £4,000 from their disabled daughter.
Gale Penny Mutton was sentenced to 16 months in prison on Friday after admitting taking the money from the bank account of Helen Towner, who lives in assisted housing in Gainsborough Road, Henley.
Mutton, 45, who was known to friends as Penny, was working for Mencap and started caring for Miss Towner in January last year.
She gained the trust of the 44–year–old before convincing her to hand over her bank card and PIN. She then proceeded to withdraw up to £600 a week between April and July.
The fraud only came to light after Miss Towner’s mother Babs noticed a large amount of money missing from her account.
Mrs Towner and her husband Pete, who live in Makins Road, say their daughter was “devastated” after discovering the fraud and blamed herself.
Mr Towner, 69, a retired police officer who suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, said: “We were shocked but we both knew straight away what had happened.
“Helen took it personally and thought she had done something wrong. She started pulling her hair out, banging her head and she was very depressed.
“We were very angry – Penny had stolen nearly £5,000. I just think she’s really stupid to have done it because for the rest of her life now she will be tarnished.
“I hope this will be a lesson to others in the care business about what not to do when looking after vulnerable people.”
Miss Towner suffers from idiopathic progressive spastic paraparesis, which affects movement in her legs, and has learning difficulties. She walks using a frame and has a scooter for use outside.
Her parents say that before the fraud was revealed, she was financially independent and would withdraw £200 a week from her bank account by handing the card to the teller inside her branch.
Mrs Towner, 70, said: “Penny more or less groomed her from day one and became a close friend. She used to plait Helen’s hair and do girly things with her.
“Whenever we met Penny she seemed to be a vivacious and outgoing person.
“When this all came out Helen was devastated, it was almost like someone had died. Not only had she lost a friend but that friend had betrayed her.”
Oxford Crown Court heard how Mutton, from Reading, persuaded Miss Towner to let her withdraw money from the cash machine at the Tesco store in Reading Road, despite this being against Mencap rules. She convinced Miss Towner to show her the PIN number on a piece of paper before urging her not to tell other carers.
John Law, prosecuting, said: “The defendant pressured Miss Towner to use the cashpoint even though she was afraid of doing so and it was against Mencap policy.
“She was also pressured to give the defendant her PIN number and did so because she considered her a friend, liked her and depended on her.
“Miss Towner became a friend of the defendant and didn’t want to get her in trouble.”
Mutton began to regularly withdraw extra money from the account alongside the weekly £200 she gave to Miss Towner.
She even falsified records in Miss Towner’s personal diary and withdrew £400 when Miss Towner was on a family holiday in Cardiff.
The fraud was finally discovered after Miss Towner was involved in a road accident in May and decided to sell her car.
She used a bank statement as proof of address when her mother spotted there was just £300 left in her account.
Mutton was arrested and denied any wrongdoing but pleaded guilty when the case went to court.
In a statement, Miss Towner said: “Since this happened I’ve felt really awful and it has made me very cautious about carers looking after me. I find it difficult to trust anyone.
“I’ve lost my independence and my mother looks after my money for me now. I don’t trust Mencap staff any more and it has brought on a lot of stress and upset for me and my family.
“I trusted Penny and thought she was my friend. I feel like I’ve lost what I thought was a really good friend.”
Tim Boswell, defending, said Mutton, who has three children, was in the last stages of her divorce at the time of the thefts and was worried she would be left with no money.
He said: “She realises what she’s done, regrets it and is remorseful. It has had a profound impact on her life. Her long–standing career in the care system is over.
“She said she wasn’t in her right head and wasn’t thinking straight in the way she normally would do. Her ex–husband was the one who controlled the finances and she was envisaging a future where she would have a loss in the way of money.”
Sentencing Mutton, Judge Peter Ross said: “You built up a good relationship with Miss Towner to the extent that she described you as a friend and trusted you.
“You abused that investment of trust and you also abused what Miss Towner believed was a friendship.
“You have destroyed her trust in carers and it has also meant a loss of much–valued independence.”
Mutton, who now works at McDonalds in Lower Earley, will serve eight months.
A hearing will be held in July to decide how she will repay the money.