Reporter: KAREN DOHERTY
Date online: 18 February 2014
Best mate jailed for stealing Norma’s savings
A DEVASTATED 76-year-old woman died just days after her best friend was arrested for stealing nearly half her life savings.
Jacqueline Carolan (46), of Oldham Road, Failsworth, was jailed for six months at Manchester Crown Court yesterday. The family of her victim, Norma McGivern, believe the stress and betrayal contributed to her death.
The grandmother-of-five suffered a heart attack and fell down the stairs of her home in the early hours of December 5 - the day Carolan was arrested. Norma was taken to hospital where she died five days later after another heart attack.
The court heard the pair met through Mrs McGivern’s daughter, a friend of Carolan’s. The defendant obtained kind-hearted Norma’s debit card pin number when she asked to borrow £100 for a holiday, and helped her to make the withdrawal at an ATM.
She then regularly visited Norma in nearby Wesley Street on the pretext of taking her dog for a walk. But she took the card from Norma’s purse and withdrew up to £250 on 14 occasions, stealing £1,870.
Mrs McGivern didn’t notice this because her statements were sent quarterly. When she did, she told her daughter and a sting caught Carolan in the act.
Mrs McGivern, a retired machinist, said in a statement before she became ill that she would miss Carolan, whom she considered a good friend.
Carolan pleaded guilty to fraud at an earlier hearing. Mark Fireman, defending said she had no previous convictions and couldn’t give any sensible answer why she had taken the money.
But Judge Bernard Lever described Carolan’s behaviour as “despicable” and a “flagrant breach of trust.”
He said there was no medical evidence that Norma died as a result of the theft, but said: “It caused her great stress and anxiety to know that this good friend she thought she had was stealing her money.”
Mrs McGivern’s daughter Pam Bryan described the sentence as fair.
The 48-year-old charity worker, who saw her mum every day, told the Chronicle how she had first met jobless Carolan when their sons were at primary school. Her mum soon became friendly with the bubble, outgoing woman too.
Mrs McGivern was distraught when she found Carolan had taken her money to spend on luxuries. While the family was waiting for her to be arrested, she locked herself in her house and hid upstairs fearful that Carolan would visit.
A tearful Mrs Bryan said: “I know my mum was worrying. I had booked her in with the doctor because I knew she was low. She wasn’t eating.
“My mum lived independently and wasn’t an old person for 76. She went to Oldham every Saturday without fail and she had a little dog she walked. She did all her own cleaning, shopping — everything.
“That just changed. In the few days before they arrested Carolan, mum was worried sick; absolutely devastated. She loved her, she welcomed her. My mum was so trusting, she wouldn’t think bad of anyone.”
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