A CARER who had been accused of stealing £20 from an elderly patient suffering from Alzheimer’s has been found not guilty by a crown court jury.

Leanne Heseltine, 25, had been accused of taking four £5 notes from a money tin belonging to Colne pensioner Doris Hartley while looking after her, Burnley Crown Court heard.

But after a two-day hearing Ms Heseltine, of North Street, Colne, who denied stealing the money from the 87-year-old on October 31 last year, was cleared.

Prosecutors had claimed that the defendant was caught out as the result of a ‘sting’' operation, when her bosses at Majestic Care North West feared that money was going missing from Mrs Hartley's home.

Jurors were told that Ms Heseltine's colleagues had noted the serial numbers of various banknotes, which were left in a tin by Mrs Hartley’s daughter, Pauline Ingham, to cover living expenses during the week.

Police kept observations on the pensioner’s home and when Ms Heseltine left the property, part way through the day, she was stopped and searched.

She was found with four £5 notes, which had come from Mrs Hartley’s money tin – but the carer insisted she had been going out to do some shopping for her.

Defence barrister Ricky Holland, in his closing speech, said his client had been a carer for eight years, with ‘not a whiff'’ of misconduct on her record.

Interviewed by police later, she agreed with officers that it was a ‘disgusting’ crime but protested her innocence regarding the alleged theft.

Mr Holland said that the prosecution had seized upon the fact that his client had not filled out a financial transaction form, recording any money being taken out of Mrs Hartley’s tin.

But she was adamant that she would have filled out the form upon her return with the shopping, the jury was told.

"This is a flimsy platform upon which to base a case such as this," added Mr Holland.

Jurors took under half an hour to acquit Ms Heseltine, who had no previous convictions except for an unrelated drink-driving offence.