Somerset cleaner goes free following £27,000 thefts
A cleaner who stole cash and valuables worth thousands from elderly clients walked free from court yesterday, to the fury of her victims.
Claire Stevens, 49, looted money, jewellery, ornaments and alcohol totalling £27,000 after being trusted by her clients and their families.
Self-employed Stevens, who admitted four charges of theft and asked for 14 further offences to be considered, committed her crimes over a 12-year period.
But a judge gave her a suspended sentence after describing her case as “unusual” – because Stevens had returned some items and apologised to some victims.
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Mr Recorder Peter Towler told her: “All of these offences involve a very grave breach of trust.
“But this is an unusual case. This case is very different from the normal case where someone has gone around for years stealing as a breach of trust.”
He handed Stevens a 40-week prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered her to undertake 60 hours of unpaid work.
She must also be supervised for 18 months and attend psychiatric medical treatment.
Steven’s victims shouted “travesty” and “shame on you” as the sentence was passed.
Taunton Crown Court heard how Stevens from Shepton Mallet, Somerset, began taking items from her clients’ homes in the town and mid-Somerset area in May 2000.
David Bowen, prosecuting, said: “It is difficult to come to an exact value of the items but when added together it is estimated to be somewhere in the region of £27,700. Some items were recovered and the defendant returned some items.
“One loser even speaks of the defendant giving her an envelope full of cash and vouchers.”
The court heard Stevens acted as a trusted cleaner and carer to at least 19 elderly clients – one aged over 100.
Mr Bowen added: “She was a cleaner and sometimes a personal carer and she obtained her position in various households by means of recommendation.”
He said Stevens sold some items on eBay or gold evaluation sites and much of the jewellery was never recovered.
Rebecca Bradberry, defending, said Stevens had a number of psychological issues and had been assessed for kleptomania.
Outside court victims Bharati Pardhi, 64, Carol Davis, 67 and Cherry Lawson, 67, slammed the sentence as “a travesty of justice”.
Mrs Pardhi said £17,000 worth of jewellery, including a £10,000 ring, was stolen from her, although Stevens insists it was £1,000 worth of toilet rolls and petty cash.
She said: “How anybody can get away with so much lying and so much changing of her story is beyond me.
“I lost my mother’s emerald and diamond ring, a gold necklace and original art work, it was all about £17,000 from my own home.”
Carol Davis, who believes Stevens stole up to £3,500 from her, said: “I feel absolutely devastated. She’s managed to get away with a travesty.”