A GREEDY grandmother who masqueraded as a charitable do-gooder swindled her now dead dementia suffering ‘friend’ out of £57,000 savings – to finance a lavish lifestyle.
The beneficiaries of 80-year-old Margaret Rigby’s crimes included her ex-policeman son-in-law Allan MacDonald and her daughter Jane MacDonald, a retired nurse.
The cash was taken from ‘friend of 40 years’ Barbara Lewis’s bank account – as she lay seriously ill with deteriorating brain functioning and memory loss in a care home.
It was blown on two cars and a caravan, a holiday to America and other trips, expensive family gifts, Take That concert tickets, clearing credit card bills, expensive meals at restaurants, and other luxuries.
Convictions for all three at Canterbury Crown Court last week finally delivered justice for the late Coventry mum and her 49-year-old son Nick Lewis, from Kenilworth.
He self-financed a legal battle which started when Rigby was mysteriously granted power of attorney in 2003 – which enabled her to later take control of the £242,000 proceeds of the sale of his mum’s home in Coventry.
At the time of her death in 2011, the figure had dramatically fallen to £96,000.
The funds from the house sale in 2008 – purchased by Nick who took out a ‘second mortgage’ to support his frail mum’s care – were supposed to be spent on Mrs Lewis’s needs only.
In 2003 when the power of attorney was granted, Mrs Lewis was already being assessed for the early onset of dementia at University Hospital in Coventry.
She had appeared to misguidedly place her trust in Rigby, a former carer of dementia patients who she first befriended when Nick attended 1st Meriden cub scouts where Rigby was a cub scout leader.
Rigby was thought to be a respected volunteer for the Samaritans and Inner Wheel charities. The court also heard she was involved in the masons in Leamington before moving to Kent.
Rigby, of Burnt Barn Cottages, Betteshanger, Kent, is now disgraced after being found guilty by a jury of fraud totaling £57,000.
Her 56 year-old daughter Jane MacDonald, of the same address, was found guilty of two charges of acquiring criminal property, and son-in-law Allan, 60, was found guilty of one count. Both formerly lived in Earlsdon, Coventry.
The three are expected to be sentenced at the same court on November 10.
Mr Lewis, a management consultant, now living in Kenilworth, said: “For me, this was never about money, and I do not stand to financially benefit from this. It’s been extremely stressful and time consuming as well as costing a lot of money in legal fees, and I’ve had to take time out of my career to fight this case.
“For me, it’s about justice. These people had a veneer of respectability as nurses, charity volunteers, churchgoers, and a policeman.
“The truth is now out – they took money from my mum and made 1,100 separate transactions on her accounts.
“My mum died four years ago this month. They thought this would all just go away, and people would be fobbed off.
“Unbelievably, Margaret carried on spending mum’s money after her death and even on the day of her funeral, when I’d foolishly praised Margaret’s friendship during the eulogy.”
Rigby’s spending only emerged later on the reading of the will, of which Mrs Lewis’s only child Nick was the sole beneficiary.
Mr Lewis said he hoped the case would raise awareness of other vulnerable dementia sufferers who may be financially abused in similar circumstances. He has raised the matter with his MP Jeremy Wright, the government’s attorney general.
Rigby had claimed the spending would have been what her friend Barbara wanted.
The money was also blown on expensive dental treatment for Rigby’s daughter, a cooker for the Rigby household, a £500 coffee machine, and even a ‘chicken house’ – as Mrs Lewis lay in bed only able to eat pureed food.
Mrs Lewis’s husband George Lewis died in 1991. He was an associate partner at Cartwright, Holt and Sons, a well-known estate agents in Coventry and surrounding areas.
Barbara had once worked at the Warwickshire Police HQ in Leek Wootton in a secretarial job, and had previously worked for the United Nations in Tripoli and Sri Lanka – then Ceylon.
In the 1970s, she became a treasurer at the 1st Meriden Scout group alongside Rigby, who lived in Meriden at the time when her and her late husband Roy once ran the greengrocer’s store on The Green.
Following the Rigbys’ move to Kent in 2003, they moved Mrs Lewis to Elliott House residential home in Herne Bay, Kent, close to them – 200 miles away from her only son, despite his objections.
Nick later managed to move her back to the Midlands, to a care home in Tamworth, Staffordshire.
Prosecutor Dominic Connolly said Rigby had “abused her position of trust.”
He added: “The daughter and son-in-law were recipients of gifts, which they knew had come from Barbara Lewis’s money.”
Rigby’s 23-year-old granddaughter Rosie MacDonald, of Bingley Court, Canterbury, was acquitted of acquiring criminal property.