Family 'gutted' over theft by caregiver

By Doug Laing

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A live-in caregiver who stole $35,510 from her widowed Napier employer accepted a $2500 severance payment and dinner with her victim's family when she resigned in April, knowing the game was almost up.

The trusting and rewarding generosity of Valerie Deakin and family was revealed yesterday by her daughter-in-law, Rachel Deakin, after a judge in Napier District Court sentenced 64-year-old Kay Frances Coull to nine months' community detention, and ordered minimum reparation of $25 a week.

At that rate, 87-year-old Mrs Deakin will be a centenarian before the debt is paid in full.

Rachel Deakin told Hawke's Bay Today the breach of trust by a woman who had worked for her mother-in-law for almost five years before the year-long spate of 88 bank card thefts was discovered, was "pretty gutting" to all of the family.

Not even when Mrs Deakin's family started to wonder about the disappearance of bank statements, which would have revealed the thefts, did they suspect what Coull was up to. Initially they accepted Coull's explanations, that Mrs Deakin was hiding or losing the statements, but within weeks the caregiver resigned and was given the family send-off.

As the statements began arriving again, unable to be intercepted, it was Mrs Deakin who found the damning details, proving she was not starting to "lose it" as Coull had claimed.

While the discovery had shattered the bed-ridden Mrs Deakin, a widow since husband Ned died in 2008, Rachel Deakin said her new caregiver had observed that "she's as sharp as a tack".

Coull had done "a fantastic job covering it up". Family had been unable to get to yesterday's sentencing but there had been no signs of remorse from the thief. "She's tried to throw it all back on Valerie," Rachel Deakin said, revealing that a letter had been received threatening action over employment issues.

In court, assigned defence counsel Allan Cressey, of the Public Defence Service, also mentioned the possible employment dispute, but conceded that even if established such a claim wouldn't "come close" to the amount of reparation.

And Rachel Deakin said later that in addition to being paid for her work, Coull's board was covered as part of the caregiving arrangement.

A police summary said that after becoming less mobile early last year, Mrs Deakin entrusted Coull with her bank card and PIN, to make withdrawals for groceries and other items for the household, and other withdrawals amounting to $50 every seven to 10 days.

But in June 2011, Coull began making unauthorised withdrawals of between $50 and $800 a time, averaging about two a week for almost a year.

Coull admitted the thefts when questioned by police, claiming all the money had been spent.

The court was told Coull had almost no resources to pay reparation, apart from promising to pay at the rate set by Judge Tony Adeane, who ordered an immediate means assessment of the thief to establish if she could pay more quickly.

Coull will also be on probationary supervision for nine months.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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