Page last updated at 16:20 GMT, Friday, 31 July 2009 17:20 UK

Aunt jailed for inheritance theft

Rhona Haslam
Rhona Haslam spent the money on luxury goods, her nephew said

A woman who systematically stole her nephew's £52,000 inheritance has been jailed for three years.

Rhona Haslam, 51, forged her sister-in-law's signature to make withdrawals from the fund set up for Robert Simpson, Bolton Crown Court heard.

The fraud was only discovered when he checked the account to see if he had enough for a house deposit - and found the balance was just £293.

He told the BBC he could never forgive his aunt, who admitted fraud charges.

Mr Simpson's father - also called Robert - died in 1994 at the age of 41.

After his death it was discovered he had left his home, furniture and some investments to his sister, Haslam.

It's not something she has done because she was grieving, it's something she's done because she wanted the money
Robert Simpson, victim

But he left his occupational pension in trust for his son, who was four-years-old at the time.

Haslam and Robert's mother were appointed legal executors of the estate, which required both signatures for withdrawals.

Police were called after Mr Simpson asked his mother to check the balance in August 2008 and found the fund had dwindled. Withdrawals had been made over a five-year period.

Haslam, of Hazelmere, Kearsley, admitted forgery, obtaining property by deception and three counts of obtaining money by deception in a previous hearing at Bolton Crown Court.

Speaking after the hearing, Det Con Richard Armstrong, of Greater Manchester Police, said: "Without word of a lie, this is one of the most horrendous breaches of trust I have had the misfortune to investigate in my 30-year career.

Mr Simpson said he was sickened and angry with his aunt

"Robert was aware from a young age that his father had made financial provision for his future and was looking forward to having a good start to his adult life with few financial worries.

"That dream has been shattered by Haslam, who has left him just a couple of hundred pounds.

"Had she not stolen from her own flesh and blood, the victim would have inherited £79,865.00 once it matured."

Mr Simpson said he had been left "sick, numb and angry" by his aunt's deception.

"My father put it aside so that I could actually have a good start and she's tried taking that away," Mr Simpson told the BBC.

Asked whether he could ever forgive her, the 20-year-old replied: "No.

"If it was something she'd done [because] she was desperate for the money, or anything like that, then yes, maybe I could.

"But she's spent it on luxuries, she's spent it on stuff she doesn't need. She's spent it on diamond rings, all sorts.

"It's not something she has done because she was grieving, it's something she's done because she wanted the money."

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