A MEAN mother stole thousands of pounds from her estranged husband - within hours of him having a severe stroke.

Joanne McDonald visited her ex-partner in hospital - then went to his home and transferred money from his account.

The 46-year-old also changed the ill man's internet banking password and had the new one sent to her mobile phone.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the mother-of-two, from Middlesbrough, took £3,500 in September.

The victim was later reimbursed by his bank, and McDonald was ordered by a judge to repay them the full amount.

She was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for a year with supervision after she admitted a charges of theft.

Peter Makepeace, mitigating, told the court that McDonald's mother had given her the money to meet the damages bill.

He urged Judge Howard Crowson not to jail her because she has a 14-year-old son at home and one starting university.

"Any costs would also have to be met by the grandmother because Mrs McDonald is in receipt of benefits," he said.

McDonald, of Cambridge Avenue, Marton, was also ordered to pay £480 court costs after delaying her guilty plea until trial day.

Judge Crowson told her: "What you did on that day was to take advantage of this man being in hospital.

"I don't expect that we will see you in court again. However, this suspended sentence needs to be taken seriously."