Murdered Northam woman confronted accused carer over missing money

Exeter Crown Court

Exeter Crown Court - Credit: Archant

A frail widow accused a carer of stealing thousands of pounds just days before he allegedly strangled and battered her to death.

Carol Hart was upset and horrified when she discovered money was missing from her bank account and said she felt that carer Michael Robinson had betrayed her trust.

The 77-year-old former hairdresser was almost bedbound and needed regular care visits to her home in North Devon because she was in constant pain from a spinal condition. arthritis and a broken hip.

Robinson is on trial accused of murdering her after she found out about the missing money and confronted him about it.

The prosecution say he killed in a fit of rage or her to silence her or after she refused to withdraw her accusation against him.

The jury at Exeter Crown Court have been told he was linked to the scene of the murder in J H Taylor Drive, Northam by a bloody fingerprint on her bed and blood on his boot.

Robinson, aged 35, of Seaview Road, Northam, denies murder and the theft of around £4,000 withdrawn from her account in November and December 2020.

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He is alleged to have killed Mrs Hart in the early hours of Monday, January 11, this year after letting himself in through her insecure back door.

She was found with 59 different injuries including a broken neck and two facial fractures.

Robinson was filmed at a nearby Costcutter store using her bank card to withdraw a total of £5,600 cash between November 27 and December 31. He says he had her permission to make the withdrawals.

Another carer told the jury that Mrs Hart was distraught when she realised there was less money than she expected in her bank account and blamed Robinson immediately.

Amanda Bowen, who helps run the TorrAge charity, said she visited Mrs Hart every Friday to do her shopping and was asked to take out £250 for her on December 31, 2020.

She handed over the cash and a slip from the ATM which showed the balance of the account and said this alarmed Mrs Hart, who noticed that thousands of pounds were missing.

She said: “She was very concerned about the discrepancy. I offered to ring the bank but the phone was not charged. She said Robinson had access to her card and PIN and that she had asked him to do little bits of shopping and get cash for her.

“Robinson arrived at that point and I had a discussion about the account. I asked Carol if there were receipts or slips for the previous withdrawals and she said no.

“I said to Mike he had to follow protocols. He was clearly very embarrassed and went very red and said he would make sure he did so in the future.”

Mrs Bowen said she went back on Friday January 8, 2021, and rang Mrs Hart’s bank and jotted down a list of the withdrawals, leading her to order a paper statement, cancel the card and order a new one.

She said: “Carol was extremely upset and quite horrified, to be honest. I don’t think she could believe what she was hearing. I did not talk to her about Robinson. She was very aware of what was going on and did not want to escalate things in her own mind.

“She had already come to the conclusion it was Robinson in her own mind. She was distraught that her trust had been broken. She was a lady with a high moral compass.

“She was adamant she had not given him access to withdraw that amount of cash.”

Mrs Bowen said she alerted the agency which employed Robinson and contacted the police and Mrs Hart’s community matron.

Mrs Hart’s half-sister Sheila Crighton said she had been born in 1943 to a soldier father who was killed in the war.

She left school when she was 15 and trained as a hairdresser before working for the NAAFI. She married her first husband Peter in 1964 and they emigrating to South Africa with their daughter Clare before returning to Britain.

She divorced her husband in the 1980s and had a relationship with a professional wrestler known as Dr Death and then moved to Devon, where she lived with a partner called Barry, who died in 2003.

Ms Crighton said Carol loved animals and had owned Jack Russells and poodles before acquiring the two rescue greyhounds which were living with her at the time of her death.

She said: “If I could sum my sister up, she was generally happy and outgoing. She was cheeky and in her younger days she would have stood out in a crowd.”

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