Murderer faces jail after stealing £120,000 from mother-in-law’s bank account

A convicted murderer and thief who stole £120,000 from his mother-in-law’s estate has been warned he faces prison.

Ivan Downes – who was jailed for life at Norwich Crown Court in 1992 – tried to blame his late wife Linda for the crime before changing his plea at Inverness Sheriff Court.

The 73-year-old admitted the theft of half what was originally libelled against him – £241,000 – between 2007 and 2013.

And in a dramatic and unexpected twist, his defence counsel, David Nicolson, told Sheriff Ian Cruickshank that his client would be able to repay the money immediately.

He revealed: “He has recently come into a large sum of money and can make compensation. It is readily available in his bank account.”

It was not revealed in court where his windfall had come from.

Sheriff Cruickshank deferred sentence until June 21 on Downes for a background report and the money to be repaid and continued his bail.

But he warned Downes, who previously lived in Buckie but was now resident in Woodroffe Street, Forres, that he may yet be jailed, saying: “Even if that sum is paid, all options remain open to the court for sentencing.”

Convicted murderer emptied bank account

Fiscal depute Emily Hood told the sheriff that Downes’ wife, Linda, was appointed power of attorney after her mother Gwendoline Smith was admitted to Greenhill Care Home in Barnet in August 2007, having had a stroke.

“Her home in Potters Bar was sold for £345,382.37 and from that £130,000 was paid up front to the care home, with £200,000 invested in her name.

“During her stay, she had a disagreement with Ivan and Linda Downes over the signing of a cheque for £100,000 and told staff she wanted her money to stay where it was in her accounts and investments.

“Over £200,000 was paid to the care home over six years and other monies spent with her permission, but this did not cover £120,000. She died on January 4, 2013.”

ATM withdrawals across the UK

The court heard that her daughter-in-law, Wilhelmina Smith, had been appointed executor of Mrs Smith’s will, leaving her money to her four grandchildren.

When probate was granted allowing Wilhelmina to make enquiries into Gwendoline’s affairs, she expected to find a significant amount of money in her two bank accounts.

However, only £7.98 was left, Ms Hood told the court.

She added that 300 cash withdrawals, mostly of the maximum daily amount of £300, had recorded across the UK, including Inverness, Nairn, Elgin and Wick, with 169 from machines in Buckie, where the Downes lived for a spell.

“£120,000 had been withdrawn without explanation,” Ms Hood said.

Previous conviction

The Downes were interviewed by police in 2015 and Ivan Downes accepted he was mostly in control of the money.

He confessed that his wife, whom he planned to incriminate as part of his defence at trial, had little to do with financial matters.

Downes also admitted previous convictions, with Sheriff Cruickshank noting the murder conviction would have allowed him to jail the pensioner immediately without calling for a report.

The schedule showed that Downes had convictions going back to 1967, including ones for larceny, theft and dishonesty.

Despite stealing the six-figure sum over the previous years, Downes also had a March 2016 conviction at Inverness Justice of the Peace Court for defrauding a local board and lodgings premises. He was admonished.

Courtesy of Latest News and Sport Headlines from Inverness | Press and Journal