A leading medical negligence solicitor has admitted stealing £711,000 from vulnerable clients after representing them in multi-million pound litigation claims against the NHS.

Marcus Nickson, a partner at the now closed KJ Commons & Co Ltd in Carlisle, Cumbria, cheated the cash from the family of a baby with brain damage and a young man who had suffered a stroke aged 22.

But he was caught out when after his partner in the firm, Kevin Commons, was murdered by gunman Derrick Bird, during a killing spree in 2010, and a new lawyer took over Nickson’s files.

Nickson, 66, of Wigton, Cumbria, pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud at Preston Crown Court today.

He will be sentenced on 17th December.

The court heard both offences contained an element of false accounting after Nickson charged huge legal fees to the families after telling them the charges would be minimal.

Judge Simon Newell said said: “It is hard to imagine anything else other than a high degree of trust when the parent or parents of brain damaged children seeking damages from the medical authorities place their trust in their legal advisors.

“It seems to be like the trust one would place in one’s teacher, surgeon or priest.”

One of his victims - a baby who was left with severe quadriplegic cerebral palsy after failings during her birth in 1999 - was awarded £3.5m damages from the NHS after Nickson represented her in court.

The youngster tragically died aged 12, but in 2010, after securing the financial settlement for her and her family, the lawyer stole £104,688.87 from the trust fund which had been set up for her care.

His other victim, a 22-year-old who had suffered a stroke which went undetected was awarded more than £3m damages. He will need ongoing care for life, but between 2007 and 2011, Nickson stole £606,193.36 from his settlement.

As part of the legal settlements in each case, costs were awarded to cover Nickson’s services in representing the families, along with expert witnesses and barristers.

Nickson has now admitted stealing £711,000 from the individual awards made to his clients - in addition to the costs he was awarded.

In June 2010, Nickson’s partner in the firm Kevin Commons was shot dead by gunman Derrick Bird when he ran amok in Cumbria killing several people.

Nickson was extremely distressed and left the firm three years later.

In January 2013 David Dawson became head of the firm’s Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury Department and took over the files of Nickson’s two clients.

He became concerned at the way they had been billed for his work and directors of the firm alerted the police.

In December 2017 Nickson, of Blencogo, Wigton, was charged with theft.

He pleaded guilty as his trial was due to start and will return to court in December, when he is expected to face a prison sentence.