A CARER who 'helped himself' to thousands of pounds from his 90-year-old client has avoided jail.

Christian Whitton, of Overdale Close, Barton, repeatedly withdrew large amounts of cash from the credit cards of his employer Patricia Wallis while he was meant to be looking after her.

The 45-year-old used the money to pay for his own wedding and solicitor's fees in what Judge Maria Lamb has described as a 'despicable' betrayal of trust.

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Sentencing Whitton to two years in prison, suspended for 18 months, at Oxford Crown Court yesterday, Judge Lamb told him: "Your behaviour towards this elderly lady was nothing short of despicable.

"It is hard to think of a higher degree of trust than that which is placed in a carer by the person they are meant to be looking after.

"She was housebound and reliant on you for physical care and to carry out the usual financial transactions to keep a home going.

"She trusted you and you helped yourself to her resources because of your own financial difficulties."

Whitton and his wife had been caring for Dr Wallis for up to four years when he was arrested in September 2017.

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The pair had visited her address in Blewbury, near Didcot, four times a day to help her with basic needs while she was living alone and housebound after a fall.

A cousin, Simon Wallis, raised the alarm after finding a number of suspicious transactions on his relative's John Lewis account during a period of 20 months.

Across locations in south Oxfordshire, including Wallingford and Didcot, £200 had been withdrawn on 12 separate occasions.

Upon further investigation, Mr Wallis found similar activity on a Marks and Spencer credit card where the £300 maximum cash withdrawal had been made at regular intervals from January 2016.

Overall it was estimated £20,190 had been taken out across the two cards with Whitton admitting to taking £13,390 and the rest put down as legitimate transactions.

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Whitton had been given access to the cards and the PINs to pay for shopping and to make regular small payments to a dog walker and gardener but the court heard how his employer 'had no need' for withdrawals of such large amounts of money.

John Lewis has already agreed to refund all the money that was stolen from its account.

In a victim statement, Dr Wallis wrote: "I was most upset to discover that so much money had been taken from me.

"I considered him to be my friend and I am shocked and betrayed he would do this to me.

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"I worked hard to get together enough money to see me through my old age and this has caused me to dip further into my savings.

"I hope he will not be able to take advantage of vulnerable people in the future.

"I feel very sad about what has happened as I trusted him implicitly."

Whitton, who is currently living on benefits, argued he couldn't go to jail because of his caring commitments to his wife, who has mental health issues, and step son, who has Asperger’s.

His defence barrister Lyall Thompson said: "This money he took was not used to fund a lavish lifestyle.

"The couple did get married during this period but perhaps only a tenth of this money was spent on the wedding - it was not done lavishly."

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Mr Thompson explained that much of the money was spent on solicitor's fees as Whitton fought a custody battle for his four-year-old daughter who had moved to Glasgow with his first wife.

Asking for the judge to take a 'merciful course', he argued the fact that he will never work as a carer again and will struggle to find any employment handling money was a substantial punishment already.

When first arrested, Whitton denied keeping the money and said it was all for Dr Wallis's needs.

He had been due to stand trial last month but changed his plea to guilty after a last minute change of heart.

Judge Lamb said he had only been spared jail because his late actions had ensured Dr Wallis would not have to attend court as a witness.