A FRAUDSTER who cashed in cheques belonging to his 90-year-old aunt while she lay ill in hospital has been spared jail.
Brian Pettinger, aged 51, started paying the money into his own account when his relative was admitted to hospital in 2011.
The defendant wept in the dock as Sheffield Crown Court heard how he would wait for the postman to deliver his aunt’s pension cheques.
Pettinger, who pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud, helped himself to envelopes containing the cheques before paying the money into his own account, the court was told.
Pettinger, of Church Lane, Dinnington, Rotherham, stole £798.75 before the Department for Work and Pensions spotted that the cheques were being cashed even though his aunt was in hospital.
When questioned by police, Pettinger said he had been given permission by his aunt, who later died in May 2012, to use the money to redecorate his house.
Michael Cane-Soothill, defending, said: “This was totally out of character and he recognises what he did was wrong.
“He had been in a relationship that had broken down, his benefits had been stopped and he was so depressed that he was considering taking his own life.”
Sentencing, Recorder Tahir Khan QC ordered Pettinger to carry out 240 hours’ unpaid work as part of a 12-month community order.