A trusted care worker who stole thousands of pounds from an 81-year-old dementia sufferer escaped jail “by the skin of her teeth”.

Sarah Wright’s vulnerable victim was pursued by creditors after Wright used her bank card details to buy music on iTunes, underwear, shoes and slimming chewing gum, Bradford Crown Court heard yesterday.

Wright, 35, was caught when a friend of the elderly woman’s spotted that she had apparently renewed her car tax when she had no driving licence and did not own a vehicle.

Wright, of Idle Road, Undercliffe, Bradford, pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position, between May 1, 2012, and January 31, 2013.

Prosecutor David Godfrey said Wright worked as a care assistant for Bluebird Care that provided help to residents in their own homes.

She took down the banking details of her victim, who lives in the Eccleshill area of Bradford, and dishonestly used her credit and debit cards to buy items to the value of £3,625 for herself.

Mr Godfrey said the fraud began to unravel in February last year when the payment for road fund tax was noticed.

“There were numerous transactions that had not been authorised by the victim,” he said.

The pensioner’s bank cards were used to pay for items on eBay with PayPal. As well as taxing her car, Wright had renewed her vehicle insurance with her victim’s money.

The court heard that Wright, who had no criminal convictions, was immediately frank with the police.

Mr Godfrey said the money had not been repaid and the elderly woman had been pursued by debt collecting companies.

“They have been contacting the victim and causing her distress,” he said.

Wright’s lawyer, Maria Temkow, said she had been in the caring profession since she was 17.

She was suffering from depression at the time of the offending, following the death of her brother.

“She is ashamed and remorseful,” Miss Temkow said.

“She has managed to find a new job and has put away over £1,000 to pay compensation to her victim.”

The judge, Mrs Recorder Lindy Armitage, said it was a despicable crime and sparing Wright jail was “an act of very considerable mercy.”

“She has avoided prison by the skin of her teeth,” she said.

Wright was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 150 hours of unpaid work.

She was ordered to pay her victim £1,000 within 14 days.