MEMBERS of the 19 families whose dead relatives' estates were plundered by a disgraced Otley solicitor have greeted his imprisonment with quiet satisfaction.

John Richard Ingham, known as Richard, has begun a six year prison stretch after being sentenced at Leeds Crown Court on Tuesday.

The court heard how the 60-year-old, a partner in the former law firm Barratt Chamberlain -- which had offices in Otley and Ilkley-- stole more than £1 million from client accounts between 1993 and 2003.

In one instance Ingham, who pleaded guilty to 19 counts of theft at an earlier hearing, took £40,000 from the estate of a former colleague and partner, Joshua Greenwood -- who had left the money to help pay for care for his disabled son.

Mr Greenwood's widow, Mavis, of Otley travelled to court to see Ingham sentenced.

She said: "He deserves it, I'm sorry. I don't have a lot to say, it's hurt me too much.

"It's dreadful. You put 110 per cent trust in your solicitor and then for them to take advantage is dreadful in my mind, I can't say what I feel. He didn't show any remorse, that's what annoyed me."

Another Wharfedale victim, who did not want to be identified, was part of a family who had to wait years to receive more than £25,000 from their mother's estate. Ingham had stolen the money and then struggled to pay it back.

She said: "We were one of the lucky ones, because we did get our money back. He'd 'borrowed' it early on after my mother died and it took a long time, maybe six or seven years later, before we got it.

"He'd obviously taken it from somebody else's account to pay us back, I think that's what had been happening. I feel sorry for those who lost the money.

"It was the biggest shock when I was told what had been going on. He was always very courteous and my mother had taken him as her solicitor because he'd done it for my auntie and she'd liked the way he did things and thought he was pleasant and trustworthy. I had no reason to think anything else.

"It just shows how easily you can be deceived. I didn't believe it at first. I'm one of those people who can't think ill of people but I was amazed and thought 'what on earth is he doing?' And in a place like Otley, where everybody knows each other, it's unbelievable.

"Why did he need to do this? He was with a well established firm and he had a lot of clients.

"The money was from our mother's terraced house in Otley and some that had been saved, she was a thrifty person but she never had a lot, it wasn't a big estate, it was just to share out equally between us."

Referring to Ingham's jail term, she added: "It will give him food for thought."

David Dixon, prosecuting, told the court how Ingham, of Croft View, Thirsk withheld thousands from charities, children's hospitals and individual beneficiaries of deceased clients.

He said Ingham used cash to buy his wife a new Renault Megane car, purchase a house in London for his children, pay their university fees and stone clad his drive. Money was also used to clear personal overdrafts and replace funds in other accounts of estates he had already drained.

Sentencing him, Mr Justice Elias said: "You betrayed the trust of these clients and deceived everybody who relied on you. In some cases those who you have cheated were your close friends and colleagues."

Referring to the theft from Mr Greenwood's estate, he added: "That was about the biggest flagrant breach of trust there can be and it beggars belief you could have done that.

"The disgrace you've brought upon yourself and the shame you've brought upon your family is diabolical."

Ingham joined the firm in the 1960s and was made a partner in 1971, when he gained the authority to sign cheques. Ingham falsified accounts by writing false details on cheque stubs and then made cheques payable to himself.

He lost the authority to sign cheques when he retired in 2003, but remained as one of the firm's consultants. The thefts were discovered in June, 2003 when he asked for permission for a transfer to be paid from one of the estates into his account. Staff became suspicious and called police.

Mr Dixon said Ingham had plundered £1,070,167.96p from the estates but used more than £300,000 of his own and beneficiaries' cash to cover his deception, leaving the net total gained at £703,003.69p.

Mitigating, Michael Taylor said Ingham regretted his actions and had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. Ingham had paid back most of the cash by selling property and other assets and paying into a restitution fund. He said Ingham blamed high interest rates, his children's education and taxes for the thefts.