A CARE home worker has been jailed after she stole more than £13,000 from elderly residents to feed a spiralling gambling addiction.

Miriam Raine abused the trust of three pensioners by helping herself to their bank cards before splurging their hard-earned cash on online betting and gaming websites.

Raine carried out her heartless actions between March and November 2017 at a care home in Ponteland, as well as homes in Jarrow and North Shields.

One of her victims, who was in palliative care after being diagnosed with leukaemia at the time of the crime, expressed his disgust after being used “as a money machine” by Raine while in a vulnerable state.

Another of her victims, an 87-year-old dementia patient, sadly died before seeing Raine brought to justice. His step-daughter described the fraudster’s actions as “unforgivable”.

Raine (46), of Lulworth Avenue, Jarrow, admitted three counts of theft and three counts of fraud by false representation earlier this year. On Wednesday a judge at Newcastle Crown Court sentenced her to two years behind bars.

PC Chris Rule, of Northumbria Police, said: “This is a heartless and despicable crime as Raine stole from the very people who she was expected to protect and look out for.

“Her greed and abuse of position saw her steal elderly people’s bank cards in the firm belief that she would get away with it due to her victim’s vulnerabilities.

“When a police investigation was launched, we searched her address and found one resident’s bank card hidden in her wardrobe and another victim’s purse lying around her home.

“I am sure that the public are equally horrified by her crimes, so it is imperative that offenders like Raine are brought to justice. I welcome her custodial sentence handed down at court.

“I hope this outcome can offer some comfort to the families of her victims, and I would like to thank them personally for their support and cooperation throughout this difficult case.”

In a statement prepared for court, one of Raine’s victims expressed the hurt and anger that he felt as a result of the case.

He said: “At the time of the crime, I was lying in bed in a care home having been told I was in palliative care - this was end of life care.

“Whilst I’m lying in my bed drugged up so much I had no idea of how ill I was, I was being targeted by one of the people who was meant to be making me comfortable before I passed away. She was in my room, rummaging through my belongings and then stealing my bank card which she used to commit fraud.

"She was in a position of trust and she broke that trust and nursing etiquette; her priority was to make me comfortable when in fact, I was being used as a money machine.

“I am one of the lucky ones who has survived to see this case through. I feel very lucky that I am able to see this case through to the end.”

Another of Raine’s victims, sadly, died before seeing the her brought to justice but his step-daughter has described the family’s horror after learning of the care worker’s inexcusable intrusion.

She said: “Families of these victims rely on carers to nurture and care for those who are unable to do so for themselves. To think of this woman causing distress to family members and the victims themselves makes me feel sick, angry and absolutely appalled.

“I can’t get over the fact that she went into my step father’s bedroom, rummaged through his belongings, found what she was looking for and then helped herself. To then go on and spend over £13,000 of somebody else’s money is just unforgivable.”

Raine now begins a custodial term.