Brian Matthews a 75-year-old pensioner who plied his 96-year-old mother with sherry while he siphoned off her pension money has been spared jail.
He, neglected mother Winifred who was left to wallow in squalid conditions at her home in Cranham, Upminster – despite being entitled to three pensions.
He left her without heating, hot water, electric lighting or even a working toilet.
Her toenails had not been cut for so long they were curling into the soles of her feet.
Matthews, who held power of attorney over his mother’s financial affairs, diverted £18,000 of her pension into his own bank account.
Mrs Matthews lived in the extreme poverty for at least three years, between 2010 and 2013, before her niece Rosalind Reynolds , who had lost contact with her aunt for several years, alerted social services.
Matthews was handed a two-year jail sentence suspended for two years after being convicted of two counts of fraud and one of neglect after a 10-day trial in January.
Snaresbrook Crown Court heard Matthews would leave his mother bottles of sherry so she was almost always in a drunken state.
Mrs Reynolds told jurors Mrs Matthews was her “posh aunty” and had always kept an immaculate house.
She said she lost touch with her aunt after breaking her back in 1997 and was horrified by what she found when she re-established contact.
The house in Chester Avenue was coated in grime, the floors were sticky under foot and the bedroom windows were jammed open by ivy.
Ms Reynolds said: “The dirt was ingrained into her skin. It wasn’t something you could get rid of by running her hands under a tap. Her nails were long and black.
“She had a pair of slippers on, there were tears in them where her toes were poking out.
“Her nails were so long they were curled round and they were curling up the folds of her feet- they were like those witches fingers you could get in a shop.”
Mrs Matthews, formerly a senior member of the finance department at Barking and Dagenham Council, would spend her days seated on a hard-backed dining chair by the window, next to a broken portable heater.
She had no heating except one working portable heater by the front door and the immersion heater was also broken.
Mrs Reynolds’ husband, retired police officer Jonathan Chapman, said it was “the worst case he had ever seen”.
He told jurors the stench coming from Mrs Matthews’s home was “enough to knock you backwards”.
Giving evidence Matthews claimed he had put up a quarter of the cash for his mother’s house when she and his father bought it 30 years ago, but produced no evidence of his input.
He admitted that by 2010 his mother was not in “good shape” but claimed she was “a stubborn woman” who refused to let him make changes.
He added: “The curtains were getting worse and wouldn’t have them changed, she’s very blunt my mother and she said ‘what do I want all that new stuff for’ and she didn’t want it done.
“The carpet was really dirty where she used to sit – she would sit in the same place by the front window so she could look out.
When asked if he thought things needed replacing, Matthews replied: “I did, but my mother didn’t – she didn’t have people coming round normally and she said ‘I don’t want anything touched’.”
He continued: “She got her fridge when I was 14 years of age, I said ‘What about a new one?’ and she said ‘What for? It still works’ – she always got her own way.”
Matthews admitted writing out cheques for his mother to sign because she had dementia but claimed she did not care what he spent her money on so he did not keep receipts.
He said he visited his mother once every three weeks and brought bread, milk and a bottle of sherry with him whenever he came.
Matthews insisted he arranged meals on wheels for her but claimed she had refused to allow him to organise a professional carer for her.
He denied neglecting his mother and had threatened to take legal action against Ms Reynolds for upsetting Mrs Matthews by “interfering”.
Matthews was earlier investigated for leaving his mother alone in her home, in bed, without food, water or medication after she returned home from a spell in hospital, following a fall.
He had power of attorney for his mother’s affairs revoked by the Court of Protection in April 2013.
Mrs Matthews is now aged 98 and living in a care home in Romford.
Noel Casey, for Matthews, said: ‘This [sentence] can probably best be addressed by the court in seeking and enforcing compensation and a curfew order – it may stop the defendant visiting the village pub in the evenings for a few months, something I know he’s partial to.
‘He’s a man of previous good character, who’s gone through his life unblemished by any criminal record. He continues to have a family life, one of his sons is seated in the public gallery.
“This is a man of great age, the court may feel that some deterrent effect for the general public may be drawn from making this sentence a period of immediate custody, but for the defendant this has been a long drawn out case and of some considerable pain because it involves his mother.”
Judge Bernard Doherty told Matthews: “Winnifred Matthews was a woman who, in her younger years, was immaculately turned out, highly independent and even capable of being a formidable person, but at the time of the indictment she was clearly very vulnerable and needed help.”
He continued: “You only spent the bare minimum to keep her alive, the evidence is that she was living in absolute squalor at the time.”
“You bought sherry which made her drunk which led to her soiling herself, which is in itself very dangerous, and it’s my judgement having listened to all the evidence that your mother’s unwillingness to accept help suited you as you were able to hold on to more of your money for yourself.
“And if she stayed in the house until her death, you wouldn’t have been forced to sell it to pay for her care costs – your main motivation was a financial one in order to hold on to as much of your mother’s money for yourself as possible.
“Rosalind Reynolds did what most of us hope we would do if faced with the same situation, she began to do what she could to improve your mother’s conditions and spending her own money.
“All the thanks she got was your contempt and your hatred.”
Matthews, of Old Yarmouth Road, Broome, near Bungay in Suffolk, was ordered to pay £20,000 compensation to his mother and £5,000 prosecution costs.
He was also put under a tagged curfew between 7pm and 6am for the next six months, and barred from contacting his cousin Rosalind Reynolds and her husband Jonathan Chapman.
He still has the right to make supervised visits to his mother at her care home in Romford.
Matthews, who appeared in court in a shirt, tie and a leather jacket, hugged his son as he left the dock.