A mother who spent more than £450,000 of her son's money after he died while on duty in Afghanistan has been jailed.
Kathryn Walker, from Washington, had been entrusted with the will of her son Richard Walker, who died while on duty in Afghanistan in 2013.
His mother was trusted with ensuring those wishes were followed, but Newcastle Crown Court heard how 56-year-old Walker's fraud was spotted years after the death.
A relative of the intended beneficiary of the will heard gossip that Walker had become "minted" when her son died.
A cheque of £455,774 was paid to Walker in 2014 - the same amount left by Richard in his will to someone else, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
When the intended beneficiary did not receive statements about the money, they became concerned and tried to make inquiries through solicitors.
They then instructed solicitors to investigate the money and letters sent to Walker, asking her to provide information, but no response was received.
Walker also failed to respond to an order from Newcastle probate registry requiring her to provide an inventory of the estate.
Enforcement action started in 2020 and when police were informed, checks showed that within four months of getting the money, Walker had spent it.
Newcastle Crown Court heard how Walker put £137,000 into another bank account she had, paid £237,000 to buy caravans in Whitley Bay and spent £10,000 in supermarkets.
Walker withdrew more than £30,000 in cash and also sold the seven caravans she had bought - for a loss of £161,000.
In a police interview, the fraudster said she spent £180,000 on a memorial garden in her home and cleared personal debts and rent arrears. She denied wasting the cash.
Nick Lane, prosecuting, said: "Several years later she bumped into someone who passed on information that Kathryn Walker was supposed to be 'minted' since her son's death. She had recently bought horses and stables.
"This concerned her because she understood from Mr Walker that his mum was not good with money. She had survived on benefits and had borrowed money from her son."
Mr Lane said: "She accepted she knew the money was not hers to spend. She said she was sorry for her actions."
The intended beneficiary's representative said in a victim impact statement: "She has totally breached her position of trust by using this money for her own benefit.
"To find answers I hired a private investigator and I also had to pay £6,000 in solicitors' fees."
Walker, of Horsley Road, Barmston, Washington, pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of trust and was jailed for three years and four months.
Judge Julie Clemitson told her: "At the age of 56-years-old without having been in court before, it's a tragedy you appear here today in respect of such a serious offence.
"Some of it was spent in an altruistic fashion - you paid for medical treatment for a friend's child. Some of it was spent on pure extravagance including a private number plate and horse box.
"You had spent the entirety of the inheritance and there's now absolutely nothing left. This was a fraud which took place over a sustained period of time and it was a gross breach of trust. It is the loss of a life-changing sum of money."
Lorraine Mustard, mitigating, said: "She is of previous good character. This is not a lady who's without her own difficulties. She lost her son in all of this.
"There has been bereavement after bereavement. She saw it in some sense as blood money after the pain of losing her son. She tried to anaesthetise that pain by spending the money she had no right to spend."
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