A SOCIAL worker who took more than £550,000 from people in her care has been jailed for more than seven years.

When Hilary Tideswell, 63, was asked to assess vulnerable adult Constance Lupton, she found the 81-year-old of Ilkley, was ineligible for council funding as she had £500,000 in savings and a house.

This is where contact should have ended, but instead, the Bradford Community Council care worker took steps to become Mrs Lupton’s power of attorney without her knowing.

With full and unregulated access to Mrs Lupton’s account, Tideswell swiftly starting spending this money on Rolex watches and holidays, sharing the money with husband David Tideswell, 66, and son, Neil Moorhouse, 42.

Hilary Tideswell, of Wakefield Road, Halifax, then assessed another man, Mr Ritchie, determining that he shouldn’t return home. When he died shortly after, the Community Care worker used money she had taken from her other victim to pay for his funeral.

Tideswell forged a will for him and obtained probate so she could manage his estate, transferring £27,372 into her own account.

The Community Care worker continued to exploit her position of power, allowing her son to live in Mrs Lupton’s house rent-free, before selling the property when the stolen funds started dwindling.

Some of the profits of this house sale were spent on a plot of land, some was used to pay off Tideswell’s debt and the rest was squandered.

Kim Holden of the CPS said: “Tideswell was entrusted to care for some of the most vulnerable people in society and she used this power for her own selfish gain, taking over half-a-million pounds and spending it lavishly.”

When the Office of the Public Guardian began investigating, Tideswell tried to say that all the payments were legitimate, even forging notes and insisting that Ms Lupton wanted to leave her money as a gift.

The CPS was able to prove that the payments, many of which were on frivolous items and paying off debts, had not been authorised by Mrs Lupton and were of no benefit to her.

When interviewed, David Tideswell insisted he had no idea the money was fraudulent, despite the fact his wife had significantly more than her wage would provide.

Moorhouse insisted that his mother had told him to stay at the house and he didn’t want to argue with her. He said that he had received money when the house was sold but that was a payment for the renovation work he had done.

When asked if he thought his mother was involved in something illicit, he admitted he had thought she might be as she was ‘swanning off on holiday a lot.’

On 2 March, at Leeds Crown Court, Hilary Tideswell pleaded guilty to fraud offences and on 12 March her husband and son were found guilty after a trial of converting criminal property.

On Monday Hilary Tideswell was been sentenced to seven years and nine months in prison, while David Tideswell and Neil Moorhouse both received a two-year suspended sentence.

Kim Holden added: “Tideswell forged notes in an effort to cover what she had done and her husband feigned he was unaware, but the prosecution was able to prove otherwise.

“Criminality of this nature represents an appalling abuse of trust and it is essential that offenders such as the Tideswells are brought to justice and dealt with accordingly.”