A HUSBAND and wife exploited a 98-year-old man by fleecing him of £20,000.
Linda Clarke befriended Jack Ball after he fell in Portchester high street and she went to his aid.
Is Jack going to buy me a new watch sometime? Mine is on its last legsDerren Clarke’s texts to his wife
Within months after the 2006 fall she and husband Derren Clarke, 50, had convinced Mr Ball to move into a bungalow near them in Fareham, make them the sole beneficiary of his will and hand them power of attorney.
Mr Ball even took Mrs Clarke on cruises in the Mediterranean.
Text messages read out in court from Clarke to his wife showed the extent of their abuse of the former accountant at Marconi and army veteran – who they kept away from his friends.
‘Is Jack going to buy me a new watch sometime? Mine is on its last legs,’ said one message read by prosecutor Nick Tucker.
Another, after Mr Ball had fallen, said: ‘You should not go in there and lift or move him.
‘A day on the floor won’t kill him.
‘A day in [excrement] will not kill him. You should open a few windows so he gets cold. He won’t do it again.’
Another said: ‘He’s doing it on purpose, leave him on the floor.’
Mr Tucker said another message said: ‘Are you doing any money for Jack? I need as much as I can at the moment.’
The court was told Mrs Clarke would get Mr Ball to sign blank cheques and make cash withdrawals from his bank.
‘By their guilty pleas the defendants accept they have used their position as Jack Ball’s friends and carers to help themselves to his money by, principally, cash withdrawals and authorised cheques,’ Mr Tucker said.
‘Mrs Clarke had his cheque book. It was her practice to get him to pre-sign blank cheques.’
Both defendants pleaded guilty to fraud on the basis that they took only £20,000 over a one-year period prior to their arrest.
Mr Tucker said it was not possible to work out exactly how much had been taken.
The Clarkes had been charged with a figure of more than £90,000 but after repeated adjourned trials due to Mrs Clarke’s ill health the CPS accepted the plea to £20,000.
Sentencing, judge Ian Pearson said: ‘Both of you fought these proceedings really more or less to the bitter end.’
Handing them suspended sentences he added: ‘I accept that initially your role may have been a caring one but it would seem very soon that led to his exploitation.
‘You were made the beneficiary of his will and power of attorney and Mrs Clarke had the benefit of holidays.
‘He became very much dependent on you and you exploited him for your own greedy ends.
‘I’m told you had some financial difficulty – that’s curious as your bank accounts now show substantial credit balances.’
The judge said the Clarkes, both of Nelson Avenue, Fareham, were more culpable due to the abuse of trust and power, the sustained period of dishonest, the vulnerability of the victim and the degree of planning needed.
‘This had a serious detrimental effect on the victim; he’s lost trust in carers who he thought no doubt were doing the best for him,’ judge Pearson added.
Frank Abbott, defending Mrs Clarke, said she suffers from a permanent open wound after a double mastectomy. He said they had both cared for Mr Ball, who is now safely in a nursing home.
He said: ‘He had willingly handed over his finances to them, it was not suggested he was pressured to do that.’
Daniel Reilly, defending Mr Clarke, said the texts were sent ‘in the heat of the moment’ after Mr Ball fell and had pulled a tube from Mrs Clarke’s open wound.
The Clarkes argued they had become overwhelmed by caring for Mr Ball.
Both were handed a two-year sentence suspended for 24 months.
Mrs Clarke must abide by a four-month curfew between 7pm and 7am each day.
Mr Clarke must complete 250 hours of unpaid work within a year.
And the judge ordered them to pay back £10,000 each to Mr Ball within 28 days or face a year in prison.
POLICE have welcomed the sentencing of the couple who conned a pensioner out of thousands.
Investigating officer Detective Constable David Sheppard said: ‘Police take all allegations of financial abuse seriously.
‘In this case, a vulnerable 98-year-old, Jack Ball, had £20,000 stolen by Linda and Derren Clarke, who he had trusted to safeguard his financial wellbeing.
‘The Clarkes pleaded guilty in court and they have to pay back the money stolen from Mr Ball.
‘Understandably Mr Ball was disappointed and upset by the Clarkes’ actions.
‘However I am pleased that he received excellent support from Gosport adult social services and that he will get his money back.’