A TEENAGER has narrowly escaped prison after she was caught red-handed on a secret camera stealing cash from a frail 94-year-old.
Thief Tanya Pedder, 18, worked as a carer at Kirk House in Church.
She was filmed helping the pensioner out of bed and then taking the cash out of a purse before wiping away fingerprints.
The victim's relatives had hidden the camera in a Christmas tree in the sheltered accommodation flat after they became suspicious that money was being stolen over a five-month period.
At Hyndburn Magistrates Court, Pedder, of Within Grove, Huncoat, pleaded guilty to stealing cash and a bar of chocolate worth £5 from Mrs Alice Hewston as well as £20 and £45 from two other pensioners.
Neil White, prosecuting, said Mrs Hewston's family believed almost £100 had been stolen which suggested the pensioner may have been the victim of numerous thefts in her home.
He added: "Pedder rummaged through the wallet and then wiped it clean with a dust cloth. She blatantly went through Alice's belongings, suggesting it was pre-meditated with an element of sophistication."
Mr Gareth Price, defending, said Pedder was an intelligent girl with no previous convictions who had been barred from shops and shouted at in the street since the Observer first reported her case.
Mr Price said: "Tanya admits her guilt, apologises for her actions and feels remorse. She was severely depressed last summer into winter after caring for her mother and started behaving entirely out of character."
But magistrate Mr Robert Gibson stressed the gravity of the offence
He said: "You were in a position of trust and the people involved were elderly and vulnerable. We believe there was a certain amount of pre-meditation in wiping your fingerprints and the distress you caused the victims and their families."
Pedder was given an 180 day prison sentence, suspended for two years, and a two-year supervision order with 150 hours unpaid work. She was ordered to pay £77 compensation to the victims and £60 court costs.
A relative of Mrs Hewston said: "We have made an example of her. I don't want to bear a grudge, I'm a very fair person. She's finished working in caring and has lost her reputation.
"Alice is just glad it's all over."
CLICK on the link below to see the footage of Pedder taking stealing from the pensioner ...