Families urged to install spy cameras in homes of elderly relatives to catch thieves red-handed

A charity is advising people who have vulnerable elderly relatives to install hidden CCTV cameras in their homes to help combat a rise in thefts by friends, family or carers.

Action on Elder Abuse (AEA) says it has seen complaints of theft and fraud against elderly victims double in a year and estimates money and goods worth £18 million was stolen.

It is advising concerned relatives or friends to consider installing hidden spy-style cameras, which cost as little as £20 on the high street and can be hidden inside household items such as smoke alarms and air-fresheners.

An investigation by The Times (£) found:

Claire O'Hara from Thornaby, Stockton-on-Tees, caught stealing from a resident at Stainton Way Care Home in Middlesbrough

The Care Quality Commission has already issued guidance on installing surveillance in private homes.

It recognised that in some cases covert or overt cameras "may be the best or only way to ensure safety or quality of care".

One relative, Simon Berlin, told The Times he suspected it would have been impossible to convict the carer who stole from his late mother without video evidence.

Rachel Robinson, from the West Midlands. pictured using an elderly dementia victim's cash card. She stole £20k and was jailed for two years earlier this month

The elderly woman had several teams of carers and support workers visit her at home in Shirley, south London, on a daily basis when £20 to £50 in cash began to disappear each week.

Mr Berlin installed a covert camera in the kitchen smoke alarm and eventually caught the thief red-handed.

The female carer from a private firm was given a three-month prison sentence suspended for two years and 200 hours of community service.

"I just don't think the police could have dealt with the case," he said. "It was crucial, really."

Care home and elder abuse helplines: