A TEENAGER with a gambling problem helped himself to thousands of pounds from the savings of an elderly family friend, a court heard.

Matthew Lee Chapman was trusted to make withdrawals from the Post Office account of the 92-year-old man, who had known him since childhood.

Durham Crown Court heard that the victim lived alone in sheltered accommodation in Barnard Castle and found it difficult to get out during cold weather in January last year.

Adrian Dent, prosecuting, said he gave Chapman his bank card and PIN number to make “modest” withdrawals to cover general expenditure.

But, Mr Dent said at the time Chapman had “substantial debts” and a gambling habit.

“Instead of withdrawing just £20 or £30, he was taking out sums of up to the daily limit of £250.

“He would hand over the £20 or £30 to the complainant, pocketing the rest to spend on gambling.

“But he then began using the card ‘willy-nilly’, purely for himself.”

Within weeks 28 transactions were made with Chapman taking £5,030 for his own use.

Mr Dent said it came to light as the victim’s niece became concerned at the dwindling funds in his account.

A ‘stop’ was put on Chapman’s use of the account by mid-February, and the same day he was refused service. He was arrested and initially denied the offences. 

But, Chapman, now 20, of Stainmore Close, Startforth, near Barnard Castle, admitted theft at a recent hearing and was today locked up for 19 months.

Amrit Jandoo, mitigating, said that at the time Chapman had, “an appalling gambling addiction”, with debts of almost £9,000.