Judge condemns 'cruel and mean' County Durham couple who stole from vulnerable man and son

Jonathan Foster and Louise Stabler drove the son around, forcing him to make cash withdrawals. Credit: NCJ Media

A couple targeted a vulnerable father and son and stole their money during a "planned" campaign of exploitation.

Jonathan Foster, 48, and Louise Stabler, 34, from County Durham, targeted an elderly man and his son before walking into their home uninvited and taking bank cards and money on 5 May this year.

The son was also ushered away in a vehicle and ordered to withdraw his money from various cash machines, which left him feeling "abused".

Deborah Smithies, prosecuting, said: "The victims live together in Blackhall and are both vulnerable.

"Louise Stabler and Jonathan Foster targeted the two men because of their vulnerabilities and there is some history between the four."

Stabler has reportedly had sexual relations with both victims in the past, but is also in a relationship with Foster.

The court heard that on 5 May, the father and son were at home when Stabler turned up and told the elderly man she wanted to see his son - which he refused.

Foster was sentenced at Durham Crown Court on Monday 26 September via video link from HMP Durham. Credit: NCJ Media

However, Stabler entered the home anyway and began arguing with the son before Foster turned up at the home and was invited inside because he had a cut hand.

Ms Smithies said that in the sitting room of the home, there was a wallet with a £10 note inside and credit and bank cards belonging to both victims.

In the kitchen was a jar of coins which amounted to around £90 in change.

She said: "When Louise Stabler was in the sitting room she helped herself to the cards and coins."

Stabler and Foster then left, but returned later that same day in a vehicle and told the younger victim to get in.

They then drove him around various cash machines and made withdrawals.

Foster also made two purchases of over £50 at a Co-Op using the victim's card.

In a victim statement, the younger of the men said the incident left him feeling "abused" and that his heart had "slipped" out of his chest.

On Monday, Foster, of Ross Terrace, Ferryhill, appeared at Durham Crown Court via link from HMP Durham to be sentenced for theft and two counts of fraud, which he had pleaded guilty to.

The court heard that Foster had 48 previous convictions for 82 offences which spanned more than 30 years.

He was also in breach of a suspended sentence at the time of the May offence.

Lewis Kerr, mitigating, said Foster had pleaded guilty and his offending was carried out to "facilitate his drug and alcohol use".

He said: "These were mean offences and he recognises that."

Mr Kerr added that during his 30 years of offending, there had been "gaps" and asked the judge to keep his sentence as short as possible.

Sentencing Foster, Judge Jo Kidd said: "This was joint activity clearly planned in order to intimidate both vulnerable victims against a background of exploitation. This was a cruel and mean offence."

Foster was jailed for 33 months.

Stabler, of no fixed address, had previously appeared at the court on 7 September and was jailed for 18 months for her involvement.

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