Will writer 'stole from clients'

Times Series: A will writer is accused of stealing more than 300,000 from his clients A will writer is accused of stealing more than 300,000 from his clients

A will writer siphoned more than £300,000 from the estates of his clients - convincing them to buy him a Jaguar car and pay for his wife's funeral, a court heard.

Keith Webber, 67, allegedly stole the money from four elderly customers while hired as their executors and Power of Attorney over a-three year period.

Bristol Crown Court heard the vulnerable pensioners were persuaded to make "very generous" gifts to Webber in their dying days - one buying him a £11,000 Jaguar car.

Webber even convinced one man to buy his wife, Joan Webber, a £3,000 funeral plan, then charged him a £150 agents fee, a jury heard.

He is also accused of forging one woman's will two weeks after her death - switching himself as the main beneficiary instead of two cancer charities.

Webber, of Chard, Somerset, denies three charges of fraud totalling around £300,000, one of forgery and another of theft between 2009 and 2012.

Prosecuting, Rupert Lowe told a jury of four men and eight women, Webber was hired by the elderly clients - all now deceased - through his company, KEWsWillS.

"You couldn't want for a more obvious case of abusing your position as will writer, attorney and executor," Mr Lowe said.

"These elderly and vulnerable people trusted him, believed that he was a competent and honest professional person.

"But instead of looking after their affairs as they believed he was doing, Keith Webber found ways of enriching himself at their expense."

Mr Lowe said that while his clients were alive, Webber persuaded or deceived them into paying him large sums of money and withdraw cash from their bank accounts.

Webber allegedly also had his clients sign assets over to him and failed to give them money that was due to them, instead pocketing it for himself.

"After they died, the defendant would withdraw money from their accounts, receive and pocket funds and refunds owing to the deceased, inflate their funeral expenses and inflate his own fees and expenses," Mr Lowe said.

"In one case, he actually altered the will to make himself the main beneficiary instead of the charity to which the old lady believed she was giving her money.

"It is simply not possible to calculate exactly how much money he stole from his clients, but it is more than £300,000."

The court heard Webber's first victims were married couple David and Esther Larn - the sister of his wife Joan - who appointed him as Power of Attorney in September 2009.

Within a week, the Larns had written cheques to the value of £36,500 to Webber, Mr Lowe said. Webber also used their debit cards to withdraw £320, he said.

Over 13 months, the Larns paid Webber more than £62,000 - or over £4,700 per month - in gifts, petrol and fees, Mr Lowe told the jury.

"These elderly relatives quickly became a cash cow for this defendant," he said. Mrs Larn also paid £18,000 to Webber between 2009 and 2010, the court heard.

Webber acted as a broker for Golden Charter Funeral Plan for both Mr and Mrs Larn in 2010, taking an optional £150 agent fee and £90 commission for both.

"While arranging their funerals, he arranged a plan for his wife Joan in identical terms, including the £150 agents fee," Mr Lowe said.

"Who paid for Joan's plan at a cost of £2,949? The Larns. So on top of a free funeral for his wife, Keith Webber received £720 in total for fees and commissions."

In May 2010, Webber convinced Mr Larn to purchase him a Jaguar worth £11,444 plus road tax of £214.75, the jury heard.

Mrs Larn died on September 22, 2010, with Mr Larn passing away on October 10, 2010. Nursing home fees, which had been paid for in advance, were refunded directly to Webber's savings account, along with a Winter Fuel Allowance and pension payments.

Over the weekend of Mr Larn's death, Webber withdrew £900 from his bank accounts, Mr Lowe said.

Webber's third alleged victim, Audrey Jarvis, from Surbiton, appointed him as Power of Attorney on July 13, 2011.

In August 2011, Miss Jarvis' Prudential Prudence Initial Charge Bond, worth £35,964.80 and Friends Life policy, worth £32,569.87, were transferred to Webber.

Webber later told police the funds were "gifts" from Miss Jarvis as they shared a "spiritually close relationship", the jury heard.

On September 6, 2011, Webber wrote himself a cheque for £300 from Miss Jarvis' account, then withdrew £100 from her account via an ATM the next day, Mr Lowe said.

Mr Lowe said Webber also "ripped off" Miss Jarvis, charging her £125 per hour for time spent driving to her property - £750 each time - and work not carried out.

"He was quite simply ripping her off," Mr Lowe said. Miss Jarvis died in hospital in October 2011.

Webber's alleged fourth victim, Vera Costan, also of Surbiton, first employed his services in 1994.

Mr Lowe said Miss Costan's will had changed slightly between 1994 and 2011 - but always left the residues of her estate to Cancer Research UK.

But just before her death, on February 14, 2012, the will was changed so £2,000 was left to cancer charities with the rest to "my friend Keith Edwin Webber".

On the same day, Miss Costan wrote a cheques to Webber for £320 and £130, with £500 following three days later.

Analysis of Webber's computer showed her will was modified on March 5, 2012 - two and a half weeks after her death, Mr Lowe said.

"The pages saying it is all going to Macmilllan and Cancer Research were simply substituted with a page saying it is all going to Keith Edwin Webber," he said.

"There was no reason for Miss Costan to leave money to Keith Webber. She hadn't changed who she wanted her money to go to in 17 years."

Two days after Miss Costan's death, Webber allegedly arrived at her flat and took jewellery and a carriage clock.

Webber was arrested on August 10, 2012 and insisted he had always "acted reasonably and in the best interests of his clients", Mr Lowe said.

The trial, expected to last for three weeks in front on Judge Graham Hume Jones, continues.

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