Durham shopkeeper jailed for defrauding woman with Alzheimer’s
Image by Durham Constabulary/The Northern Echo
A Durham shopkeeper who stole part of an elderly woman’s savings during the pandemic has been jailed.
Ponnampalam Jeyapalan ran Woodham Village Store in Newton Aycliffe, where the woman was a regular customer.
However, instead of helping the woman who is in her 90s, Jeyapalan decided to defraud her by obtaining her bank details and stealing £6,513 over a period of 10 months. He withdrew the money between August 2020 and April 2021.
After being caught in April 2021, he confessed to his crime after initially denying any wrongdoing. He was found guilty during his trial in December 2022.
The man offered to pay the entire amount back to the lady on the day of his sentencing, but this was deemed as a ‘cynical’ move by the Durham Crown Court.
Prosecutor Martin Towers said Jeyapalan abused the trust that the woman had in him and that he “deliberately targeted her due to her obvious vulnerability.”
The victim’s niece revealed in an impact statement that her aunt was “absolutely horrified” when she realised the “gross betrayal of trust”.
Judge Jo Kidd said, “it’s difficult to imagine” what the impact of the fraud on the woman must have be as she was also “isolated” during the pandemic.
She added, “She was obviously suffering from real issues with her memory”, adding that the defendant “took terrible advantage of her vulnerabilities” as she was suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Judge Kidd sentenced Jeyapalan to one year and eight months in jail, and ordered the full amount of money he had withdrawn from the woman’s account to be repaid within the next 28 days.