March 1 2015 Latest news:
Saturday, January 25, 2014
Lisa Mitchell was treated like a daughter – but the carer and friend betrayed the family she looked after by stealing £35,000 from their home.
If Allan Read was to trap his mother’s carer in the act he had to take matters into his own hands.
Norfolk police told him fitting a camera would be too expensive, but Mr Read felt the police just did not buy his story.
So he bought a camera hidden in a pen from Maplin for £40 and set up a trap.
Cutting a small hole in a light-bulb box, Mr Read dropped the pen inside it and left the camera rolling perched on a shelf along the edge of the office.
The first unbelievable recording showed Mitchell rifling through the drawers for cash, taking the £80 the family had planted there while Sheila Read waited upstairs for her care.
But after the first film Mr Read said he knew there was more footage to be had from the carer’s time at his parents’ home.
“She was very clever. She wouldn’t clear us right out because that would be too obvious,” he said. “I showed it to the police and explained everything. But I really wanted to get her again. I felt there was a bigger picture and that she was taking every opportunity she could get. She was addicted to it.”
Two days later Mr Read moved the camera-pen to a ledge inside the desk so he could get a full-frontal view of the theft.
There he captured Mitchell brazenly going through drawers, cheque books and a carer’s allowance wallet.
Every few seconds were punctuated with glances over her shoulder to see if anyone was watching before stashing the cash into her trouser pockets.
For Mr Read, the £40 on the camera was the best money he has ever spent.
He said: “If we hadn’t put cameras in she would have got away with it – really I did the police’s job for them.”
The Reads thought the world of the Dereham mother-of-two since she started cleaning for grandparents Sheila and David in 2004.
So when Mrs Read, now 81, developed dementia Mitchell’s experience of working in a nursing home made her the natural choice to be her carer. Working five mornings a week, Mitchell was paid to get Mrs Read up, showered and dressed and to prepare breakfast.
But while David Read was working on the family nursery and garden centre business, Mitchell was not tending to his ill wife – she was rummaging through desk drawers stealing their cash.
The family’s suspicions were raised when their accountant questioned what large amounts of money were being spent on between 2009 and 2012.
David Read, who was responsible for the financial side of the business, would draw out between £300 and £2,000 each week to pay staff wages and cover expenses, storing it around the home, at Dumpling Green, near Dereham.
The Reads’ son, Allan, 52, a partner in the family business and founder of Toftwood Garden Centre, telephoned the police after realising cash had gone missing from his father’s desk.
He telephoned the police but was told he would need to find the evidence himself.
So he bought a £40 camera disguised in a pen and planted it in the office to catch Mitchell red-handed.
Two video recordings later, and the damning footage proved that Mitchell was pocketing the family’s funds and even talking to Mrs Read in the next room whilst doing it.
“It was chilling to see,” he said. “Her first thought when she got to the house was to steal money rather than go and look after my mum.
“The worst part of it for me was watching the video for 20 minutes and hearing my mother asking for help. And all the time my mum hasn’t got a clue what’s going on.
“She hadn’t gone to see her – she had just gone straight for the money. I never ever thought anyone could stoop so low.”
At first David Read, who is having chemotherapy for lung and prostate cancer, didn’t want to believe what he saw. But when it sunk in he said it “shook the family”.
“He treated Lisa like a daughter, he thought the world of her,” Allan Read said.
“When he saw the first video he was totally lost for words. The effect it has had on him is terrible. To have done that to him at his stage in his life, it’s awful.”
The amount lost from the family business could have ended their 104 years of trading in Dereham.
“It’s been very hard and we could have gone under,” Mr Read said. “We had a big loss out of it. “It’s been very difficult but we battened down the hatches and kept it going.”