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Hartlepool man denies stealing £100,000 from wife's 91-year-old godmother

A man from Hartlepool has denied stealing around £100,000 from his wife's vulnerable 91-year-old godmother.

Andrew Reeve, 55, told a jury the alleged victim had told the couple to spend her life savings "as we saw fit".

Mr Reeve and his wife Lesley, 56, are accused of reducing dementia sufferer Joan Killen's bank accounts from £130,000 to just £3,000 in two years.

The prosecution claimed some of that went on converting a garage into a wet room and gym, but the defendants said they were making it into a bedroom for her to live in.

Mr Reeve, of Chichester Close, Hartlepool, told Teesside Crown Court that Miss Killen, who lives in a care home and considered the couple as her only family, was "delighted" with the plan to move in with them.

He claimed she then showed the couple her will "and told us we could spend what we needed to do the modernisations and she also said we could use it as we saw fit".

Mr Reeve claimed Miss Killen told him they could use the money for "anything".

She wanted to see the couple enjoy her money while she was still alive, he claimed.

The court has heard the couple paid off debts of more than £11,000, bought a car and regularly shopped at Next, M&S and Argos.

Mr Reeve became a signatory for her bank accounts and transferred money from savings to her current account, the court heard.

The couple are accused of stealing £95,000 from her savings, plus her pension, winter fuel allowance and money they made by renting her home out once she went into care.

In the planning application to convert their garage, the couple stated it was for a gym and wet room, but Mr Reeve said this was not true and they intended it to be for Miss Killen.

When police arrested the couple they found an exercise ball and treadmill in the room, which Mr Reeve said was a coincidence.

Matthew Bean, prosecuting, said: "The truth is you had no intention of ever having Miss Killen to come and live with you, did you?"

Mr Reeve replied: "That's not true."

Mr Bean continued: "You have made up this account in an attempt to explain away how you spent almost all her life savings."

Mr Reeve said: "That's not true."

Earlier, he claimed he and his wife have been unable to see the pensioner since their arrest last year.

"We love her, we love Joan," he told the jury.

"We are her only family and we haven't been able to see her for 19 months."

The couple jointly deny four counts of theft.

The case was adjourned until Tuesday afternoon when Mrs Reeve's defence is expected to start.