A mother who spent a £455,000 inheritance that her son had left to someone else has been sentenced to more than three years in prison.
Judge Julie Clemitson told Newcastle Crown Court that 56-year-old Kathryn Walker had committed a sustained act of fraud and a “gross breach of trust”.
Ms Walker’s son, Sapper Richard Walker, was killed in Afghanistan in 2013 while serving with the Royal Engineers.
His mother was appointed as executor of his will, which stated to whom he wanted the life-changing sum to go.
The court heard, however, that instead of looking after the money or investing it wisely, Ms Walker spent much of it on purchases ranging from vehicles and personalised number plates to horses, stables and a caravan business (which ultimately failed).
The fraud was revealed when a relative of the intended beneficiary heard rumours that Ms Walker had become “minted” following the death of her soldier son.
Prosecution barrister Nick Lane told the court: “This concerned [the woman] because she understood from Mr Walker that his mum was not good with money. She had survived on benefits and had borrowed money from her son.”
The woman instructed solicitors who sent letters to Ms Walker asking for information. However, she did not respond and also ignored an order from Newcastle probate registry.
Following the beginning of enforcement action in 2020, Ms Walker told lawyers she had invested the funds in a caravan park but had lost it when the business failed.
Ms Walker pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of trust and was jailed for three years and four months. Judge Clemitson said: “You spent the entirety of the inheritance and there’s now absolutely nothing left… It is the loss of a life-changing sum of money.”
Defence counsel Lorraine Mustard pointed out her client was someone of previous good character who had faced “bereavement after bereavement”.
She added: “Ms Walker saw [the inheritance] in some sense as blood money after the pain of losing her son. She tried to anaesthetise that pain by spending the money she had no right to spend.”
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