Accrington gran, 93, tells of her anguish after cleaner – ‘a friend’ – steals £4K from her

CLEANED OUT Victim Irene Neild

CLEANED OUT Jacqueline Leishman who stole £4,000 over two years

First published in News Blackburn Citizen: Photograph of the Author by , Crime reporter

A 93-year-old ‘pillar of the community’ has spoken of her hurt and betrayal after her ‘trusted’ cleaner emptied her bank account of £4,000.

Great grandmother-of-seven Irene Neild, was fleeced by her friend and cleaner of 11 years Jacqueline Leishman after trusting her to do her weekly food shop having become confined to her Accrington home.

She stole the cash over a two-year period, taking between £100 and £200 at a time.

The former Benjamin Hargreaves Primary School, Oswaldtwistle, teacher said: “What she did really hurts. I trusted her. We had been friends for 11 years and she would come in for a couple of hours once a week and when she was done we would have a cup of tea. It was the ultimate betrayal.

“I am so angry with her. If I saw her again I think I would have to ignore her.”

Mother-of-two Mrs Neild, lives in sheltered accommodation in Lupin Road, and had been introduced to Leishman, of Rhyddings Street, Oswaldtwistle by a neighbour.

Initially, Leishman just cleaned for the grandma-of-six earning her £15 a week. But as the pair’s friendship grew she began taking the widow, a former grocery shop owner in Scaitcliffe Street, Accrington, to the local supermarket.

However, eventually Mrs Neild found it too much to accompany her to the supermarket and entrusted her companion with her bank card so she could pay for her shopping on her behalf.

The former police officer’s wife, who worked at Manchester and County Bank, in Blackburn, during the Second World War, said: “The first thing we knew about there being a problem with the arrangement was when I got a letter from the bank saying I was overdrawn.

“I have never been overdrawn in my life. Initially, I was a bit gormless about it. I just thought the price of things had increased a lot since I used to go shopping.

“Never did I think she would steal from me. To be honest I think I put the temptation in her hand and she just could not fight it.”

Leishman, 50, worked as a self employed cleaner and had a private arrangement with Mrs Neild, a former president of the Accrington Scoroptomists, and two other residents in the same sheltered housing flats.

Hyndburn Council Leader, Coun Miles Parkinson, said it was a sad affair a lady like Mrs Neild could be victimised after she devoted her life to the community.

He said: “It is devastating for a pillar of the community, who worked as a teacher and took part in charity work, to be betrayed in such a way by someone she trusted.

“Offences like this not only cause serious problems financial problems for victims but also it breaks up the trusted relationship the pair have formed.

“In later life this lady needed someone she could reply upon for help. The fact Leishman betrayed a vulnerable 93-year-old woman makes her the lowest of the low.

“It is very sad some members of the community have to try and drag down others.”

Mrs Neild’s son, Bill said: “This whole situation has been awful. I would advise other families in a similar situation not to allow the bank card to be used by anyone other than family members. You can simply not trust anyone.”

Leishman has admitted stealing £4,000 from Mrs Neild at Burnley Crown Court and has been warned she could face jail.

She pleaded guilty to theft and was bailed until November 1, for a pre-sentence report to be completed.

Darren Lee - Smith, defending Leishman said:" She has offered to pay the full amount as soon as possible. I accept this crosses the custody threshold."

Judge Ian Leeming, QC, told Leishman: “All sentencing options, including an immediate custodial sentence, are open to sentencing judge."

A Lancashire police spokesman said: “This was a despicable crime, taking money from a very vulnerable woman who Leishman was supposed to be caring for.

“Her position of responsibility was grossly abused for which she could now face a jail sentence.”

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