Mum-of-four embezzled thousands from Edinburgh woman for 'slushie machine and gifts'

A Take That superfan who embezzled thousands of pounds from a vulnerable pensioner has avoided a jail sentence.

Julie McFarlane, 56, befriended victim Irene Buxton before gaining access to her bank account and helping herself to more than £4,000 of the widow’s money.

McFarlane then splashed out on cocktails, a slushie machine and Christmas gifts for her children with the stolen funds.

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The mum-of-four - who is known to friends as ‘Mrs Take That’ - previously hit the headlines after she customised her Ford B-Max car in tribute to the popular million selling boy band.

McFarlane bought the private T8 THT registration plate, illuminated the brake lights with the band’s logo and had the five members’ names inscribed on the bodywork of the vehicle.

The wacky paint job even attracted the attention of lead singer Gary Barlow who commented on social media prior to group taking to the stage at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow in 2015.

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McFarlane appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last month to plead guilty to embezzling an amended figure of £4636.82 from Ms Buxton over a four week period in October and November 2021.

McFarlane returned to the dock for sentencing on Wednesday where Sheriff John Cook said she had carried out “a serious breach of trust” against someone who “no longer had capacity”.

Sheriff Cook said: “In your case, in terms of the report and your background, the court can step back from imposing a custodial sentence.”

McFarlane was ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work and told she will have to wear an electronic tag and stay within her home between 7pm and 7am for the next 108 days.

A proceeds of crime hearing will also be held at the capital court next month.

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Previously the court heard Irene Buxton lived in the capital following the death of her husband and suffered from “mobility and confidence issues” after a fall in 2017.

McFarlane, from Eyemouth, Berwickshire, struck up a friendship with Mrs Buxton after the pair met the following year and she began helping out with dog walking duties.

The pensioner then suffered a stroke three years later and her family subsequently became aware McFarlane had a set of keys to her home and had been assisting with her finances.

Mrs Buxton was deemed unable to take care of her own finances and the court was told McFarlane had phoned a solicitor’s office claiming to be her “adopted niece” and required to be the power of attorney.

The solicitors spoke to Mrs Buxton while she was in hospital to confirm the move and the widow’s family were said to have concerns over the decision.

The family later gained access to Mrs Buxton’s bank statements and discovered several transactions had been made to McFarlane’s own account including one bank transfer of £4000.

The court heard McFarlane had also made purchases with Mrs Buxton’s cash including a cocktail slushie machine, a gin cocktail set, a snowflake projector, Christmas cards and children’s clothes.

The music fan was reported the police in January 2022 where she admitted she had access to the pensioner’s account and she was subsequently arrested four months later.

McFarlane pleaded guilty to embezzling £4636.82 from Irene Buxton while acting as a friend between October 29 and November 30, 2021.