A HUSBAND-and-wife duo who abused their positions working in a care home to steal more than £32,000 from a resident who suffered from Alzheimer’s have been spared jail.

Robert Miller and Susan Miller, both 60, of Thornton Road, Thornton, were working at Heaton Grange Residential Home when they stole the money from the elderly woman over a period of almost four years.

The money was spent on hundreds of pounds worth of clothing, petrol, and to fund Robert Miller’s gambling addiction, and money was also withdrawn from cash machines.

Employed as the home’s cook, Miller posed as the manager to build bonds of trust with the woman and her family, before systematically syphoning her money away.

Standing order payments due to be paid to the care home, of up to £1,800 a month, were diverted by Miller into his own bank account.

When questions were raised by the family of the woman due to irregularities in her finances and her will, Susan Miller tried to bribe them with £3,000 to keep quiet about the issue.

Michael Collins, prosecuting, said Robert Miller first came into contact with the victim when she would visit her mother in the home in 2013, before becoming a resident herself.

He said: “In 2016, her sister made contact with Miller to make arrangements to amend the victim’s will.

“He recommended a solicitors, and told her sister it would be difficult for her to be the executor while living in Canada, and he should act as an agent, for which she was grateful

“When the family visited and asked to see bank statements, Miller told them the victim just ripped them up when she got them.

“She saw the will and when she saw Miller was an executor became concerned about her sister’s finances and Miller’s role.

“Susan Miller told her his involvement was inappropriate as he was only the cook, and he apologised for giving this impression.

“Susan Miller passed the victim’s family an envelope of £3,000 from the home’s safe and told them it was from the victim. The family were concerned and contacted police.

“The money was aiming to bring uncomfortable questioning to an end.”

It was found money was withdrawn from cash machines - which the victim had never used - and payments were made at shops including Greenwoods, Marks & Spencer and Boots, and also on petrol - but the victims had never driven in her life.

The money from the victim’s account had supposed to have been paid to the care home for her care, but Miller had directed it into his own account.

Deepak Patel, the owner of the care home, said in a victim impact statement he had experienced “stress, sleepless nights and a loss of trust in his employees and colleagues” as a result of the fraud, and the incident has also impacted on his and the home’s reputation.

Peter Hampton, appearing on behalf of Robert Miller, said he took full responsibility for the crimes and had stolen the money in order to fund his gambling addiction.

Oliver Jarvis, mitigating for Susan Miller, said she was “embarrassed, ashamed and deeply sorry” for her actions, and that the incident has led to the breakdown of their marriage.

The pair both pleaded guilty to theft of £32,276.90, and Robert Miller to defrauding the care home of £34,743.82.

In sentencing, Judge Colin Burn said the victim - who had Alzheimer’s - was vulnerable, and the Millers’ actions had damaged the reputation of Heaton Grange Care Home.

However he said that nothing would be gained from sending either of the Millers to jail for their crimes.

He sentenced Robert Miller to two years in prison, suspended for two years, and Susan Miller to four months in jail suspended for a year.

They were both ordered to undertake rehabilitation activities, and Robert Miller to undertake 300 hours of unpaid work, and they are subject to Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings.

Judith King, head of region for Alzheimer’s Society, said: “The mistreatment and abuse of people with dementia is always unacceptable.

“Alzheimer’s Society is striving to create dementia friendly communities where people with dementia feel valued, included and safe.

“We are here to offer help and advice on a wide range of dementia-related issues, including measures people can take to reduce the risk of financial abuse.”