Man admits theft of 89-year-old disabled war veteran brother’s life savings

BEHIND BARS Lance Phillips
BEHIND BARS Lance Phillips

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A THIEF who stole his 89-year-old older brother’s life savings of almost £35,000 in a ‘despicable crime’ has been jailed.

Burma Star and Kohima veteran Ieuan Phillips, a retired painter and decorator, had treated adopted brother Lance, 67, like a son.

WILL BATTLE LOOMING Ieuan Phillips' home in Gordon Road, Gosport, that his brother Lance will in part inherit, despite being convicted of stealing his brother's savings

WILL BATTLE LOOMING Ieuan Phillips' home in Gordon Road, Gosport, that his brother Lance will in part inherit, despite being convicted of stealing his brother's savings

But when his health deteriorated Lance repaid stroke survivor Ieuan – who was wheelchair-bound, virtually blind and had vascular dementia – by spending his life-savings on himself.

When he was found out, Lance stopped visiting Ieuan at the Gosport care home where he lived.

Lance did not visit Ieuan once in the three months before his brother’s death in August last year, despite receiving letters and calls from Thalassa Nursing Home.

On being told of his brother’s death Lance is said to have told police: ‘At least I will now be able to pay the money back from the sale of the house.’

He has been jailed for three years at Portsmouth Crown Court after admitting one count of theft and ordered to repay the money he stole.

Judge Sarah Munro ordered him to pay £6,000 in unpaid care home fees and £28,000 to his sister Margaret Lines, 78, who with husband Pete, 76, unravelled his web of lies.

Great-grandfather Mr Lines, a military researcher, said: ‘Ieuan was a lovely man.

‘It’s despicable. Ieuan looked at Lance through rose-tinted spectacles. He never saw any bad in Lance whatsoever and totally trusted him. We made sure he didn’t know what he had done.’

Lance’s deceit came to light after sister Margaret became concerned and probed Ieuan’s finances.

He avoided them, the care home and even police, but when eventually questioned he told his relatives: ‘I have got no defence.’

Mr and Mrs Lines were shocked to discover that instead of containing thousands as expected, Ieuan Phillip’s bank account balance was just £6.78.

The cash had been spent on household expenses, appliances and a camera among other things.

Roderick James, defending, said Lance, who part-owned the home he shared with Ieuan in Gordon Road, Gosport,was ‘deeply ashamed’.

Mr Lines said: ‘Money has never been the object. We don’t care.

‘It’s what he’s done to his brother.

He added: ‘Ieuan worked as a relatively lowly paid painter and decorator who on retirement had not even a works pension to look forward to.

‘Never a smoker or drinker, the only car he ever ran was a Robin Reliant many years ago.

‘So the question is, given the facts, just how many years did it take Ieuan, this painter and decorator, to save the money Lance went on to steal in less than three years? A crime in my opinion so despicable only a substantial term of imprisonment does it justice.’

Relatives could now challenge Ieuan’s will. Part of it had left the two-thirds of the £90,000 home in Gosport he owned – called ‘Kohima’ after the Second World War battle he fought in – and the remains of his estate to Lance.

Lance, who owned a third of the property, was also to benefit from a share of the cash that should have been in his brother’s bank account.

Prosecutor Daniel Sawyer told the court relatives had planned to donate money raised from the sale of Ieuan’s two-thirds of the house if they are successful to Naomi House Hospice for children with life-threatening illnesses in Sutton Scotney and Help For Heroes.

Mr Lines praised Det Con Charlotte Donovan, officer in the case, for her work in bringing Lance Phillips to justice.

Det Con Donovan said: ‘This was a despicable crime committed against a trusting and vulnerable man.’

‘IT WAS A DETERMINED AND MEAN THEFT’

THE judge who jailed thief Lance Phillips told him: ‘Every penny, if I have my way, will be repaid.’

Phillips, 67, from Gosport, spent disabled older brother Ieuan’s £34,901.62 life savings while entrusted with looking after his finances.

Now he is serving three years in jail and must repay the stolen cash after admitting theft at Portsmouth Crown Court.

In May last year relatives discovered Phillips had not been paying 89-year-old brother Ieuan’s care home fees and a debt of more than £6,000 had built up.

Addressing Phillips, Judge Sarah Munro QC, sentencing, said: ‘You had also spent on yourself the contents of Ieuan’s life savings.

‘When you were found out you stopped visiting him and your brother died on August 17 last year having been at least expressing concerns about your whereabouts.’

Judge Munro added: ‘This was a gross breach of trust. This was a determined and mean theft committed over a protracted period and it would probably have not been detected had it not been for your sister’s concern and her concerted effort with your family’s help to unravel your brother’s finances.’

Speaking of Phillips’ family, Judge Munro said: ‘They can rightly feel disgusted because of your actions.’