A GREEDY carer fleeced a pensioner by selling her house and keeping her in squalor.

Michael Terry befriended Margaret Cullen at her home in Elm Grove in Brighton, earning her trust to the point where she put him in charge of her finances.

But rather than acting in her interest, the 62-year-old sold the octogenarian’s home, then put her in a dingy flat that was being used as a drug den.

At the same time, he took money from her bank account for

himself and his family members, spending it on premium bonds, bottles of vodka and even a new car.


He claimed he was acting as her carer, but at Hove Crown Court it was revealed Mrs Cullen was found in a soiled single bed.

Judge Paul Tain jailed him for three years for fraud and said Terry had shown a “total lack of integrity” while acting as Mrs Cullen’s power of attorney.

Nicholas Hamblin, prosecuting, said Terry’s association with Mrs Cullen started around 2010.

He said £125,000 was unaccounted for.

Mrs Cullen’s only daughter suffers from a disability and is also in a care home.

Between 2012 and 2015, Terry even managed to get Mrs Cullen to change her will so that only £15,000 from her estate would go to her daughter following a £285,000 house sale.

He pocketed the rest for himself.

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The case came to light when Terry Hughes, the son of Terry, was arrested on suspicion of drugs offences at a flat in Arundel Street in Brighton.

Inside the property, police found it littered with beer cans, vodka bottles and drug packets. In a back room, they found Mrs Cullen alone.

Hughes’s partner Emma Kay was also inside the property, purporting to be a nursing carer for her.

When police arrived, Kay was swigging from a can of beer while Mrs Cullen lay in her own filth.

Michael Terry’s wife Nicola also benefited from the fraud, the court heard.

Mr Hamblin said: “Clearly we say that the cash spent was not going to be used and was not necessary for a totally bed-bound lady living in the squalor she was in.

“This is a situation of fraud, through an abuse of position of trust and responsibility over a sustained period of many years.

“It took a significant degree of planning. Terry deliberately targeted the victim and she was incapable of resisting.”

The court heard Mrs Cullen was moved from the flat into a care home after police found her in April 2015. She died in 2017, aged 86.

Michael Morris, defending, said the actual amount defrauded was closer to £50,000 and said his client disputed many of the facts, despite admitting his guilt.


He said Terry, of Lynchet Close in Brighton, provided care and that Mrs Cullen was in fact very fond of him.

“There was no criticism from Mrs Cullen of the so-called squalor that she was in,” he said.

But the judge asked if Terry had any evidence of invoices for the care provided, to which Mr Morris replied: “No.”

The judge said the “squalor” Mrs Cullen was found in on the day may only have been a “snapshot”, rather than a prolonged condition.

But he said: “If you employ a carer, you have a clear duty as trustee to maintain proper records.”

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The judge said there are “unequivocal and categorical obligations” for legal powers of attorney.

He rejected the call for a suspended sentence and added: “This is a gross abuse of trust.

“It’s a dreadful case of impropriety, dishonesty and a total lack of integrity.

“We have a duty to protect the elderly and vulnerable in society. If we don’t, what is the point in calling it society?”