A conman who stole £115,000 from a vulnerable and elderly woman and even targeted her on the day her husband died has been jailed.
Paul McFadden, 39, was sentenced to 4.5 years for his "despicable" 14-month campaign against Elizabeth Cain.
He left his victim with less than £100 to her name and continued to steal money after her death, Liverpool Crown Court heard.
In the period leading up to her husband's funeral, he stole £11,800 from the widow and continued draining her account even as she spent her final days in hospital.
He began by transferring sums of £50 from Mrs Cain's account, but gradually doubled the amounts to the point where they reached £2,000.
The thief made up to 32 transactions per day, with the highest figure stolen in one 24-hour period being £4,000.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that McFadden was one of three carers appointed by agency Be Caring to tend to Mrs Cain and her husband, Terence – both of whom were aged 78 – in 2019.
Mrs Cain had suffered a fall and a deterioration in her health, having previously been her partner’s primary carer after he suffered a severe stroke in 2006.
McFadden, from Huyton, Merseyside, was sacked in March 2020 due to gross misconduct after he falsified logins, but he continued to visit the couple afterwards.
When Mr Cain died on 7 November that year, McFadden made three £500 bank transfers from the widow’s account into his own, and began visiting her "two or three times a week".
Around this time, Mrs Cain was left "distressed" by an unpaid £170 newsagents bill and gave the defendant money to pay it, the court heard, but the shop threatened to stop deliveries two weeks later.
Mrs Cain's sibling confronted McFadden, who said he had "forgotten to pay it", and he subsequently settled the debt.
When Mrs Cain moved into sheltered housing in January 2021, he continued to visit and "took it upon himself to sort out new furniture" for the flat, the court heard. The pensioner's brother-in-law believed she was paying for the "low quality" items.
The widow became "extremely deaf" shortly after moving, and was left with no contact with her shielding relatives as a result, and as she couldn’t use the intercom, McFadden took a key to her apartment.
After she suffered a severe fall and was admitted to hospital, McFadden told her family he would go to the flat and collect her handbag and other items, but they were never delivered.
Mrs Cain died on 22 May 2021 and when her family went to her flat two days later, they couldn’t find her life insurance certificate, nor any other important paperwork or valuables.
McFadden said he "might know" where the missing items were and returned the handbag, claiming he'd left her debit card and purse at his house and promising to return them.
When Mrs Cain's relatives visited a branch of Santander and spoke to a financial advisor, they found a £120 withdrawal had been made from her account two days after her death from a cashpoint in Bowness, Cumbria.
McFadden had told them he was travelling to the Lake District after being informed of Mrs Cain's death. On the day of her funeral on 8 June, he texted the family to say he'd dropped the purse and card with the manager of her accommodation.
The fraudster claimed that he had "stayed at the back" during the service as he had forgotten his face mask, but only 12 people were present and he was not seen at the church.
When she picked up the purse, Mrs Cain's sister said the late couple's wedding rings were not inside as expected, and they have still never been recovered.
The family later returned to the bank, and realised the "full extent" of the fraud, with "numerous" transfers having been made from the widow's account to McFadden's.
She had been left with only £87.53 in her savings account and had gone into her overdraft "a couple of times" towards the end of her life.
Between March 2020 and May 2021, a total of 554 transactions were recorded from Mrs Cain's account to McFadden's as well as three cheques totalling £15,300, amounting to a total of £115,304.41.
Defending McFadden, Frank Dillon said his client was a "long-term drug user" who was stealing to feed his habit.
Judge Brian Cummings KC said he had "fleeced" his victim then "fobbed off" her family afterwards in an effort to "attempt to conceal evidence or obstruct the discovery of the fraud".
He added: “Despite other blows she was suffering in her life, including the death of her own husband, you carried on defrauding her.
"I do not believe you had any real consideration for her as a person, and I doubt you have any real remorse for it. What you did was despicable."