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'Mean' cleaner jailed
12:00pm Friday 28th December 2001 in News
Cleaner Lorraine Banham has been jailed for 15 months after a court heard how she stole the credit card of her boss's late wife and used it to run up hundreds of pounds of debt.
She also stole from a 71-year-old woman she visited, pocketing the woman's pension money when she said she was going to the toilet.
Banham, 45, was taken on by a Mr McLean after he saw an advert on the noticeboard at his local Sainsbury's supermarket in Melksham, Swindon Crown Court heard.
Colin Meeke, prosecuting, said she was given a key to the widower's house in Lavender Close so she could let herself in and out when her employer was out. She was to work three to four hours a week and get paid £6 an hour.
He told the court that she then went out and used the card a total of 29 times running up a debt of £550.74
"She fell under suspicion and was in due course arrested and acknowledged what she had done," he said.
"After a few weeks she came across the card, it was in a drawer, and she succumbed to temptation to take the card."
He said that earlier this year at Nottingham magistrates court, a three month jail sentence had been suspended for two years after she admitted a similar theft when she took a watch and jewellery from a house where she worked as a cleaner.
After Banham appeared before north west Wiltshire magistrates, the case was adjourned for sentencing at crown court in October, but she failed to attend the hearing.
Mr Meeke said "In the mean- time she had committed offences and was arrested on November 17. She had hired a car from Economy Cars in Chippenham.
"She paid by cheque but it was returned unpaid by the bank. She agreed she would come in and pay further money or return the car.
"On the given day of return, September 22, she failed to do so. She continued to use the car so an offence of taking without the owner's consent came about."
The day before she was arrested in November he said she went to Nottingham and visited Catherine Smith, who she had knew after they both worked in a charity shop.
Mr Meeke said: "During the course of the visit and in between cups of tea she went to the lavatory and took the opportunity to steal her purse with £120 of pension drawn earlier that day.
"It was noticed missing when she had left the premises. In interview with Nottinghamshire police she said she didn't know why she did it, but accepted she did."
Mr Meeke said Banham also faced two charges of criminal damage relating to a relationship she had with a man in Swindon.
On the first occasion in September she pulled his glasses from him and smashed them and the following month she threw a brick through a window at his home in the town.
At an earlier hearing Banham, of Dunch Lane, Melksham, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft, seven of deception, two criminal damage, taking without the owner's consent and asked for 22 further deceptions to be taken into consideration.
Philip Levy, defending, said "She seems to have come to crime relatively late in life. She seems to think that doing it and saying 'Sorry, I won't do it again', that people will believe her.
"It has happened up to now but, like Matilda, her lies are not any longer believed. She is in prison now and doesn't like it."
He said most of her offences were always likely to be found out and traced to her, hiring a car in her name and getting work in her own name only to steal.
Jailing her for a total of 18 months Judge Tom Longbotham said "The theft of the cash was a particularly mean and disgusting offence."