A former finance director from Bideford who swindled his wife’s parents out of their life savings and spent it on gambling has been branded as mean and profoundly dishonest by a judge.

Accountant John Carrier took charge of Charles and Greta Rozenbergs' finances under a power of attorney while they were being treated for dementia in nursing homes in North Devon.

He abused his position by looting at least £60,000 from their bank account and losing the lot during a four year online gambling spree in which he also lost another £100,000 of his own money.

Carrier, aged 71, is a former finance director of Ferranti and Hawker Siddeley who retired to Devon to be closer to his wife's elderly parents. He had a large private pension.

Charles Rozenbergs was a penniless refugee from Latvia who came to Britain after the Second World War and settled in North Devon, where he met and married local girl Greta.

He worked until the age of 75 as a labourer at a farm at Harracott, near Barnstaple, where he and his wife brought up their two children in a tied cottage.

He carried on working past his retirement age because he was proud of never having been in debt and he wanted to carry on saving for his and Greta's old age.

They both died while being treated for advanced dementia in care homes, Greta, aged 94, in 2017 and Charles on his 92nd birthday in 2018.

The fraud came to light when the victim's son John Rozenbergs was presented with a £5,000 unpaid care home bill and discovered that there was only £100 left in the bank account, not even enough to pay for a funeral.

Police discovered that £109,000 had been plundered from their accounts, of which between £34,000 and £49,000 had been spent on their care and the rest had been stolen.

Carrier, of Meadowville Court, Bideford, admitted fraud while in a position of trust and was jailed for 20 months, suspended for two years and ordered to do 100 hours unpaid community work by Judge Timothy Rose at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him:"You emptied their accounts and obliterated their estate. It was profoundly dishonest and went on over a sustained period of time.

"Every day, every week, every month you were doing it, you knew how dishonest you were being. It is suggested you intended to pay it back, but if you were being honest with yourself it would have been obvious you were digging a deeper and deeper hole and could not possibly get it back.

"This was a very mean and spiteful offence indeed."

Robert Yates, prosecuting, said Mr and Mrs Rozenbergs trusted Carrier to look after their money because of his experience as an accountant.

He started stealing before being granted power of attorney in 2016 and carried on doing so afterwards, taking a total of between £60,000 and £75,000, all of which he lost on gambling.

His bank records showed he gambled a total of £317,000 with a total loss of £162,000. The fraud came to light when Mr Rozenbergs died and his son John discovered their account had just £100 left in it.

Richard Crabb, defending, said Carrier was in the grip of a gambling addiction and was allowed to carry on losing more money that he could afford without any intervention from the betting company he was using.

He hoped to repay the money from winnings but was robbing Peter to pay Paul and could not do so. He has since addressed his gambling addiction and is no longer betting.

Mr Crabb said Carrier had a successful career as an accountant with large companies in the Midlands but was forced to take early retirement 20 years ago after a serious car accident led to heart problems.

He has never been in trouble before and has promised his wife and John Rozenbergs he will do everything possible to repay the missing money.