A carer “crawled along the floor” to turn off cameras in a vulnerable elderly woman’s home before stealing her money.

Tracy Swinbourne, 58, took £100 from the now 90-year-old May Heighway on August 30 last year, apparently under pressure to fund her son's drug habit.

But Bolton Crown Court heard unbeknownst to Swinbourne she was caught in the act by a second camera installed Ms Heighway’s daughter Elaine Pearse.

Prosecutor Neil Bisarya said: “It is said that she ( her daughter) saw that every time the defendant was there, the camera was unstable, had been moved or turned off.”

He added: “Elaine checked the second camera and saw the defendant crawl along the floor, switch off the camera and stand up.”

The Bolton News: Tracy Swinbourne (in the light coloured coat)Tracy Swinbourne (in the light coloured coat) (Image: Newsquest)

The second camera caught Swinbourne taking the money before going back to turn the first camera back on.

Mr Bisarya said: “The defendant then walked up to the mother and called out ‘night,night, God bless.’”

The first camera had been installed in case the elderly Ms Heighway suffered a fall at home, but her daughter had installed the second after becoming suspicious of Swinbourne.

Daughter Elaine Pearse had also marked the bank notes and noted down the serial numbers.

Having caught Swinbourne, of Windermere Road, Farnworth, in the act Ms Pearse then showed the footage to the care home manager.

Mr Bisarya told the court that the manager then confronted Swinbourne who asked why she was being spoken to.

The Bolton News: Tracy Swinbourne was brought to Bolton Crown CourtTracy Swinbourne was brought to Bolton Crown Court (Image: Newsquest)

He said: “She responded ‘I think you know why, you’ve just taken money from May’s house, to which the defendant replied, ‘I was just a bit short that week'."

Swinbourne gave back the £100 but police were called and when interviewed, she claimed she was having financial problems but had “no personal issues” with her elderly victim.

Mr Bisarya said: “It appears she was an easy target.”

Brought before Wigan and Leigh Magistrates Court in December the 58-year-old, who has two previous convictions, pleaded guilty to theft.

Dressed in a cream and black coloured North Face coat, Swinbourne looked on from the dock as Elaine Pearse told the court about the impact her crime had had on her mother and her family.

She said: “We all feel violated and manipulated" that Swinboure could have stolen from her mother after “chatting to us like we were friends.”

Ms Pearse also said that she was deeply disturbed by the fact she was still able to work as a carer with vulnerable people despite her previous convictions.

She said: “We are horrified that this can be dismissed in the care profession.”

She added: “When you take a carer unto your own home you expect them to be trustworthy in order to provide care for people like my mum.”

Tom Farr, defending, accepted that Swinbourne’s actions had been a “considerable breach of trust” but claimed she had been pressured by her son to support his “various illicit habits.”

He said: “She tells me that she took the £100 because that was a long line of what he had pressed her for.”

Asked by the judge, Mr Farr said this was to pay for the son’s drugs debts or to fund his habit.

Mr Farr also claimed that Swinboure, who’s career as a carer is now over, was now “deeply and sincerely remorseful” and said she deserved credit for having pleaded guilty.

But the Honorary Recorder for Bolton Judge Martin Walsh said that the former carer’s actions were a “gross and grotesque breach of trust.”

Addressing her directly, he said: “You went into her home, and you stole from her.

“She was a highly vulnerable woman, living in her home, and you entered her house as a carer.”

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He added: “It creates and instils a deep sense of insecurity in the mind of the victim and her family.”

Judge Walsh sentenced Swinbourne to 34 weeks in prison, suspended for two years and ordered her to complete 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days with 180 hours of unpaid work.

He also hit her with a curfew, confining her to her home between 8pm and 5am for 12 weeks.

After the sentencing, Ms Pearse said she was glad that Swinbourne would never be able to target anyone else in the same way again.