The family of an elderly woman who was conned out of £25,000 by a professional “befriender” have hit out after she dodged a jail term.
Sophie Peach gained the confidence of Isabella McIvor, who was known as Ella, through her befriending business, before draining her bank account.
The 45-year-old spent the money on luxury foreign holidays to places like Greece, Vietnam, Cyprus, Croatia and Spain.
After persuading bank staff to set up internet banking for the her victim’s finances, she also transferred a lump sum of £20,000 into her own account.
Following Peach’s sentencing hearing at Perth Sheriff Court yesterday, Ms McIvor’s niece Fiona Gourlay said the experience had had a severe impact on her aunt’s confidence.
The 89-year-old died last summer without seeing her tormentor sentenced.
Ms Gourlay said: “She changed – she went from a confident person and ended up very insecure and fragile. I think she gave up.”
Ms Gourlay also claimed Peach – who charged £20 per visit for her befriending service, called There For You – intercepted mail to hide her actions.
She said: “Eventually she was working six days a week, 9 to 11am to coincide with the post. She was getting the statements from the bank. She tried to open mail when my aunt was in the nursing home.
“We thought she might be trying to charm her way to being given money but Ella wasn’t the type to give a lot of gifts. We didn’t think she would go to the extreme she did to steal it.”
Asked her opinion on the sentence, she said: “It wasn’t severe enough – she should have been jailed.”
Peach previously admitted obtaining a total of £25,132.25 by fraud between February 11 and July 3 2017.
Sheriff William Wood was told Peach had since repaid the sum.
Blasting her “exploitative behaviour”, he told her that she had only escaped a custodial sentence due to her guilty plea, the fact she had repaid the money and because she had responsibilities towards her children.
He ordered her to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work, placed her on a 12-month curfew and placed her under a supervision order.
Peach, of Gannochy Edge, Perth, is also banned from undertaking voluntary work without permission.