Cleaner locked up for stealing pensioner's ring and claiming victim had 'lost her marbles'
A CLEANER stole a trusting pensioner's treasured diamond engagement ring – and tried to hide it by making it look like the woman had senile dementia.
The victim today told the Telegraph: "I was stupid not to see it coming. We had been kind and welcomed her into our home.
"The ring had sentimental value. We have been married nearly 50 years."
Lyndsey Smith, 34, of Pershore Avenue, Grimsby, admitted stealing a diamond solitaire engagement ring on March 14.
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She was jailed for two years and three months.
Matthew Donkin, prosecuting, told Grimsby Crown Court that the 79-year-old pensioner had mobility difficulties and had previously had help from carers. She was very grateful when Smith posted a note through the door of her Scartho home offering her services as a domestic help. It was agreed that she would clean for her every other Monday.
On one occasion, she told the pensioner that she was engaged but had hoped to receive a bigger engagement ring.
The elderly woman spoke about her own engagement ring, which was locked in a box in the bedroom.
Smith later asked to see it and the pensioner brought it to show her. They were distracted by a caller at the door and the woman hid the ring but, during that time, Smith stole it.
When the woman discovered it was missing, Smith asked her if she was sure she had not put it somewhere else. She even asked the pensioner if she wanted to search her.
Smith later claimed she sold the ring, valued at between £3,500 and £4,500, for just £100.
The ring had great sentimental value and it had been a "very traumatic experience" for the pensioner, said Mr Donkin.
Smith later taunted the woman by suggesting that she was confused and "must be losing her marbles" and claimed that the pensioner would not have the "guts" to go through with bringing in the police. The ring had not been recovered.
The woman was in court for the case and said afterwards that she wanted to warn other elderly people to be on their guard.
She said: "I'm sorry that it's happened. There's a lot of unpleasant feelings about it. I hope, for her sake, she can learn from it and behave.
"It's shocking. It wasn't just the act, it was the fact that she was manipulating and calculating and knew exactly what she was doing.
"I was shocked. I was ill. It was weeks and weeks before I could sleep. I felt quite violated.
Her husband, also 79, said: "It was a terrible thing. It's hard to believe someone could do such a thing because she was doing a good job. She was very plausible.
"It's a pity she couldn't have done the same job with no problems.
His wife said: "We are trying to protect other vulnerable people. We would hate for anyone to have to go through the six months we have gone through.
"She would ring me up and say: 'The police haven't been in touch and I don't think you have got the guts to go through with it'.
"She spent the latter time trying to convince me and my husband I had got senile dementia and could not remember it.
"It's a dreadful thing when old people are needy and, sadly, in need of help and they are just pleased to take someone on and don't realise the consequences."
Cleaner had string of previous convictions
A WOMAN who stole a valuable diamond ring from a pensioner she cleaned for had done it before.
Grimsby Crown Court heard that Lyndsey Smith had a string of 14 previous convictions, all for fraud or dishonesty, and had been given an eight-month suspended prison sentence at the same court on June 6 last year for fraud, handling stolen goods and theft.
She also had a previous conviction for theft in February last year when she stole a bracelet, also while working as a cleaner. She had been given a conditional discharge by magistrates.
Smith, 34, of Pershore Avenue, has now admitted stealing a diamond solitaire ring on March 14.
She had been working as a cleaner for the owner, a 79-year-old woman with mobility problems.
Judge David Tremberg told Smith: "It was obvious to you that this was an item of high sentimental value and yet, in a callous and calculated and serious breach of trust, you set this complainant up to steal from her in her own home."
Smith "brazenly" tried to "wheedle" her way out of it by at first pleading not guilty.
Mother-of-two Smith was jailed for two years and three months. The sentence included a consecutive six months for breaching the suspended sentence.
Richard Hackfath, mitigating, said that when Smith took diazepam, it could make her a "callous and calculating" person who was prepared to steal to support that addiction.
She bitterly regretted her actions, felt "really, really guilty" and accepted full responsibility. She had been addicted to diazepam after suffering depression and, when her doctor stopped prescribing the tablets, carried on taking them after buying them illegally on the streets.
Smith claimed she did not target the pensioner in the first place as a potential victim. She had been in custody for 49 days.
Today, elderly people were reassured that they can get help to make sure they do not take risks with people they allow into their home.
Sheilagh Coulson, chief officer for Age UK North East Lincolnshire, based in Osborne Street, Grimsby, said: "It's really important that vulnerable elderly people are aware of who they are allowing in to their home.
"If anybody telephones our offices, we have a list of providers and tradespeople who have all been Criminal Records Bureau-checked by us.
"We always recommend that people take care who they allow in to their home.
"We have a range of free information booklets available, including Avoiding Scams and Staying Safe. These two particularly provide useful tips on dealing with callers to your home."
The office's telephone number is 01472 344976.