Tyne & Wear

East Boldon man jailed for £115k theft from mother-in-law

Mary Garvey Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Mary Garvey died aged 94 in May 2013

A man who stole more than £100,000 from his ill mother-in-law has been jailed for two and a half years.

Ian Downs took £95,000 from Mary Garvey, who had dementia, before claiming a further £19,697 in life insurance after her death aged 94, in May 2013.

Mrs Garvey's granddaughter, who helped expose the theft, said her mother was a widowed war hero.

Downs, 66, from East Boldon, admitted two theft charges covering eight years.

Northumbria Police said he took control of Mrs Garvey's finances and gave her money each week for groceries and clothing.

But he also left her penniless by making secret payments into his own accounts.

The theft was exposed after Ms Garvey's daughter Gwenda and Angela, his sister-in-law and niece, asked about an inheritance.

When Downs, of Saint Bedes, failed to produce Mrs Garvey's bank account documents, they contacted police who uncovered the huge theft.

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Mary Garvey met her future husband Anthony during the war

Angela said her grandmother "deserved a life of luxury" and her uncle had "torn our family apart".

She said: "This case was never about the money. It was about the fact a woman who dedicated her life to her country was left to die in poverty.

"She was vulnerable, lonely and suffering from dementia but my uncle took advantage of that for his own financial gain."

Det Con Frank Cox said Mrs Garvey was a "frail and vulnerable woman" and Downs had "taken advantage of his position of trust".

Mrs Garvey served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women's branch of the British Army, in 1940 before joining the Army Catering Corps where she met her future husband, soldier Anthony Garvey.

After the war, the couple ran the Golden Eagle pub in Newcastle city centre for decades.

Mr Garvey died in 1977, aged 59.

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