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Online fundraising bid for war veteran memorial

Fundraisier Andi Conway Horbury. Photo: Mark Williamson.
Fundraisier Andi Conway Horbury. Photo: Mark Williamson.

A GOOD Samaritan is aiming to raise money to buy a memorial plaque for an ex-serviceman from Kineton whose life savings were stolen by a crooked care home manager.

Andi Conway Horbury, a social welfare support officer with experience helping vulnerable people in Stratford, is aiming to raise around £1,000.

Andi was motivated to do something after the Herald reported on our website late last week how Melanie Oliver, stole £47,000 from residents at River Meadows in Kineton.

Oliver, 49, of Bishops Tachbrook, was jailed for three-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to six charges of theft at Warwick Crown Court.

The 90-year-old ex-serviceman, Bertram Shuttleworth, died in a state of distress after discovering what had happened to his savings, the court was told.

Though there was no suggestion that this led to his death, the man had to have a paupers’ funeral after Oliver left him virtually penniless.

Melanie Oliver has been jailed to fleecing residents of Kineton Meadows care home out of thousands of pounds.
Melanie Oliver has been jailed to fleecing residents of Kineton Meadows care home out of thousands of pounds.

Another resident of the care home had £38,000 taken by Oliver, who used the money to fund what was described in court as an extravagant lifestyle.

Andi said: “I have family in Kineton, it’s a small place, and I feel mortified that somebody who has given so much service to the country in their youth was forced to have a paupers’ funeral and left really as a forgotten person. “When you go into the care profession you should be interested in compassion and helping people, not lining your own pockets. She lived a life of luxury, she took holidays abroad, how could she have the audacity to do that?

“People like her just don’t have a conscience. It is sad that cases like this keep happening. I’ve been doing care in the community for the last 21 years, helping the homeless, drug addicts, those with gambling problems and others. I just think that what this woman did was the lowest of the low.

“When you go into the caring profession you work with vulnerable people, I think it’s so low to steal from them.”

Andi, who lives in Warwick, said that his own family suffered a similar experience when money was stolen from his sister, who was severely disabled, while she was receiving care.

Despite not knowing where the ex-serviceman’s funeral took place, Andi is determined to help and is liaising with Warwickshire Police to try and get more information.

Andi says he will do all he can to find out where the man is buried, but if he cannot locate the grave, any money raised will go towards maintaining graves at St Peter’s Church in Kineton, or to the charity Zoe’s Place.

The court heard how Oliver, who had been the manager of the home since 2004, began stealing from the residents, who because of their conditions did not have control of their own bank cards, in 2011 and continued until January last year.

Matters began to unravel for Oliver after Prime Life Ltd decided to give River Meadows more independence, with control of its own bank account for which Oliver was responsible.

A finance officer from the company visited the home on three occasions in 2014, twice following allegations of missing money.

When she was spoken to by the police, Oliver identified another member of staff who had since retired as being a suspect. But further investigations by Warwickshire Police’s newly-formed Adults at Risk Unit revealed that the card had been used at various shops and one purchase was for an £85 Pandora bracelet and charm.

It was confirmed that the elderly resident had not purchased jewellery for himself, and had no family to buy for. Rewards points were credited to Oliver’s store privilege card — and no money went missing on dates when she was on holiday.

Justin Jarmola, defending, said: “She is totally ashamed and disgusted that she let people down she was meant to care for.”

Jailing Oliver, Judge Richard Griffith-Jones told her: “Clever, greedy and dishonest, you stole from the most vulnerable of people, bringing terrible unhappiness to one man in the last days of his life.

“This was not only a gross breach of trust, but when you were eventually confronted, you placed suspicion on a wholly innocent person to deflect culpability from yourself.”

Responding to Oliver’s conviction James Wood, Managing Director of River Meadows care home operator, Prime Life Ltd, said: “The theft occurred as a result of the offender deliberately acting outside of our policies on the handling of finances. In effect keeping a client’s personal bank card in her own possession and not declaring it to our audit team.

“Our policies have been reviewed and tightened further with all families, relatives and advocates of clients being encouraged to manage their finances themselves and on behalf of family members. This is not always possible for clients with no advocates/families but enhanced audit systems remain in place. We welcome the custodial sentence imposed.”

To support the fundraising, see https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/DeadServicemans90headstoneAppealkinetonWarwickshire

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