A HEARTBROKEN councillor had £8,000 stolen from her bank account by a man she thought of as a son while she fighting for life in hospital.

A court heard how David Eccleshare had described Cllr Rosa Kay as being “at death’s door” – but still stole to fund his gambling addiction after she asked him to sort her financial affairs while she was in hospital.

She described his thievery as the “ultimate betrayal of trust” and said she “wished she had died” when she found out as she would not have had to live through the pain of “losing a son”.

Cllr Kay, for Rumworth, fractured her hip in a fall in March 2014 and was admitted to hospital several times over the next three months.

The 78-year-old, who has had six heart bypasses, suffered complications associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was “at risk of dying”.

Manchester Crown Court was told that Cllr Kay had known Eccleshare, aged 47, and his mother for more than 20 years.

He used to take her shopping, and she frequently had paid for his groceries, as well as fuel, as a show of thanks.

She had once even paid a deposit on a family holiday for Eccleshare as he would otherwise have not been able to go.

When she was ultimately discharged, she noticed her bank account was in arrears and several direct debit payments had been cancelled.

She confronted Eccleshare, who admitted taking the money, mostly to fund compulsive gambling, which dated back to him starting to bet aged just 11.

But he then denied doing so to police, questioning whether Cllr Kay, formerly a magistrate in Bolton, was getting “confused” as he claimed she asked him to take the money.

Eccleshare eventually admitted theft on the morning of his trial, and he was jailed for two years on August 10.

In an emotional victim impact statement, Cllr Kay said: “This was and still is the ultimate betrayal of trust.

“I could not begin to imagine it happening to me, but it did.

“I still feel devastated by it. He took from me at a time when he and his mother described me as being at death’s door.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that I could have died. I was seriously ill.”

She added that she could only assume Eccleshare thought he would never get caught if she had died in hospital.

Eccleshare predominantly took the money from Cllr Kay through cash withdrawals and would then pay the money into his own account before making payments into betting accounts.

He also bought some items in shops using her card.

Speaking after the hearing, Cllr Kay, who the court was told has been a councillor for 14 years, said: “The judge summed it up perfectly and I am just so grateful that he understood how I feel about this.

“He could have done this 12 months ago but I’m so glad that it’s over.

“They have come to the right decision. I would not want this happening to anybody else.”

Judge Richard Mansell said: “This offence represents the most serious breach of trust imaginable.

“You stole from an extremely vulnerable woman at an extremely vulnerable time.

“She says she has been left heartbroken by the fact that someone she treated as family could do something like this.

“She feels that her son has stolen from her and that she has now lost a son.”

Eccleshare, of Patterson Street, Deane, was also ordered to pay compensation of £2,500 to Cllr Kay over the next two years.