A crooked handyman who stole jewellery from a 101-year-old woman has been jailed
Another of his victims, an 82-year-old doctor's wife, even thought she was "going mad" when she could not find money she had put aside for holidays, a court heard.
But light-fingered Michael Ward was caught red-handed when suspicions were roused among the neighbours he helped in Chatham, Kent.
Dr Richard Woodford and his wife Michelle, whose cat Ward also looked after while they were on holiday, set a trap.
They placed cash around their home and told Ward, who had a key and alarm fob to their property, they were going away.
He used his insider knowledge to go in and steal
Prosecutor Alex Rooke
But the couple told the 66-year-old that their pet did not need looking after as they would only be away overnight.
On their return they discovered the £60 they had put down as bait was missing.
There was no sign of a break-in and their burglar alarm had not been activated.
Prosecutor Alex Rooke said: “The supposition, and reality as it transpires, was that the only potential thief was Michael Ward as he was the only other person who had access and the ability to deactivate the burglar alarm.
“He used his insider knowledge to go in and steal.”
But Ward denied any thefts from the Woodfords and their neighbour, who is a centenarian, when he was arrested.
Mrs Moffatt had become concerned money was going missing from her home in the summer of 2015 and told Ward she no longer needed him.
She then realised that three rings – one set with five diamonds and worth between £700 and £1,000 – were missing.
It is believed Ward pawned the jewellery, and Mrs Moffatt later told police his deception had left her feeling "emotionally upset and betrayed".
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She said: “I have known him for over four years and have grown fond of him.
“He always used to say I reminded him of his mum.”
It was her concerns that alerted the Woodfords, and they realised that euros worth a total of £900 had gone missing on three separate occasions from their home.
The court heard Ward also denied visiting pawnbrokers when questioned.
But one later told police the father-of-four was a "very good customer" and particularly memorable on account of his "bad teeth".
Ward was due to stand trial at Maidstone Crown Court on Tuesday
Ward denied four charges of theft between March 2013 and June 2015, and one of burglary in July 2015, and was due to stand trial at Maidstone Crown Court on Tuesday.
Despite their age, both Mrs Moffatt and Mrs Woodford were to give evidence against him.
But they were spared the ordeal when Ward, of Defiant Close, Chatham, changed his pleas to guilty to all the offences.
Passing sentence Judge Martin Joy said it was on Ward's conscience as to whether or not he had dragged out the proceedings by maintaining his innocence in the hope his victims would not give evidence and the prosecution would abandon the case.
He also refused a request by Ward's barrister to adjourn sentencing – or spare him immediate custody – so that Ward could go to his daughter's engagement party this weekend.
Jailing him, Judge Joy said: “This was a thoroughly dishonest course of conduct and the only true mitigation is that you have pleaded guilty, albeit at this extremely late stage, and it would be inappropriate to suspend such a sentence.”
Adrian Rohard, defending, told the court the former railwayman had not only worked for Mrs Moffatt and the Woodfords but also 'struck up a friendship' with them.
Mr Rohard said: “Unfortunately, the back story is that he was in the habit of drinking heavily and was having to find some way of funding that habit.
“For the most part he earned money from them but such was his drinking that he resorted to theft of the three rings on one occasion and the other thefts from the Woodfords.”
Mr Rohard said Ward had since stopped drinking after his wife gave him an ultimatum, and the money he had saved had helped to pay for his daughter's forthcoming party.