A BLACKBURN man trusted to handle his late brother’s estate stole more than £7,000 left to his niece.

When Neil Frier’s niece turned 18 and was entitled to her late father’s assets, the accounts had been closed, a court heard.

Preston Crown Court was told that Frier had withdrawn amounts over a period of time, frittering money on drugs and alcohol.

Frier, 46, of Heatley Close, Blackburn, was given a suspended jail term by Judge Michael Byrne who told him the offences were despicable and represented a serious breach of trust.

He had pleaded guilty to two charges of theft.

The offences covered dates between February and May 2005 and November 2003 to December of 2004.

Frier’s brother Adrian Ingerfield died in February 2001 and left a legacy to Chloe Mitchell.

Duncan Birrell, prosecuting, said a will had been made and as part of the terms, Frier was appointed one of two trustees.

The other trustee moved away from the area, effectively leaving the defendant with sole charge of the £7,267, to be held in trust until Miss Mitchell was 18.

In September 2007 Miss Mitchell went to the building society, having turned 18, only to find that the accounts were closed, said the prosecution.

Adrian Williams, defending, said that his client’s mental state had dramatically deteriorated since his arrest and he was now a voluntary patient at a psychiatric unit.

At the start, Frier had intended repaying the money, having taken relatively small amounts.

He had got involved with using heroin and debts had grown.

Mr Williams said: “He is a man wracked with remorse and shame.”

Frier was given 12 months’ prison, suspended for two years, with two years supervision and he must have mental health treatment.