Thief who cleared out Blackburn cancer victim's life savings branded 'scumbag'

Colin Fairbrother

Colin Fairbrother

First published in News
Last updated
Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Crime reporter

A ‘SCUMBAG’ who raided a cancer sufferer’s bank account of her life savings has been jailed.

Great-grandmother-of-four Pauline Orrell had even given up her bed while having chemotherapy so that thief Colin Fairbrother could sleep in comfort while he stayed with her at her Blackburn home.

But the 35-year-old, who was her daughter Samantha’s partner, spent the three months he was living with her transferring more than £8,500 from Mrs Orrell’s bank account into his own in 60 separate transactions.

The widow, 68, said she had been ‘put through Hell’.

Mrs Orrell, a retired electronics engineer, said: “My husband Kenneth was dying at the time and I was having chemotherapy for lymphoma.

“I let him come and live with me for three months while Kenneth was in hospital and in those three months, he took the money out of my account.

“Fairbrother had nowhere to live and I put him up. I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

“I am disgusted by what he did. I just feel like I have been kicked in the teeth. “He is an absolute scumbag.”

Fairbrother was caught after another of Mrs Orrell’s daughters found him rifling through her belongings for her bank details.

The victim said the thief would often stand behind her as she did her online banking and comment on how much money she had in her account.

Mrs Orrell’s husband, a retired bus driver, died shortly after the allegations came to light. He had had a stroke when his wife’s condition was diagnosed.

Mrs Orrell, of Didsbury Street, said she believed the stress of the case had tipped her husband ‘over the edge’.

The couple had been due to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next month.

Mrs Orrell, who has had to move home since the thefts to more assisted accommodation, said she was now having to claim benefits for the first time in her life.

She said: “The money he stole was mine and my husband’s life savings.

“My husband always said that was there for any of us who was left behind, so we would not be left with nothing.

“But now I am having to beg and I have got people helping me out.

“I am having to go and ask for housing benefit, which I would not have had to do if that money had not been taken.

“It makes me feel totally humiliated to think I have worked for 45 years of my life and never asked for anything, but now I need help.

“It is just not fair.” Mother-of-three Mrs Orrell is now in remission from lymphoma, but she said the cancer in her bone marrow was untreatable.

Fairbrother, of Hozier Street, was sentenced to 18 months in prison at Preston Crown Court.

He was found guilty of six counts of acquiring criminal property after a trial at which Mrs Orrell had to take to the witness box and give evidence.

Mary Brennan, founder of the Bosom Friends cancer support group, which is based in East Lancashire, said: “What this woman needed was support, but instead somebody was stealing from her.

“That is so wrong and it does my head in when people are so heartless and cruel.

“Mrs Orrell must be at the lowest you can be after what has happened to her, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and we can help her.”

PC Treena Peel, from Lancashire Police, said: “Mrs Orrell has been left feeling betrayed and she has lost her trust.

“But she was determined to get Fairbrother to court to prove you cannot do this to people and she was really strong throughout.

“Fairbrother basically just took advantage of a elderly woman and stole in excess of £8,000.”

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