A former Island Health care aide has been jailed three years for stealing $227,854 from an ailing, vulnerable Second World War veteran.
Eva Nicholls, 57, pleaded guilty to defrauding John Edmondson from May 16, 2003, to Feb. 28, 2009.
Victoria provincial court Judge Adrian Brooks said Nicholls must go to prison to deter her and others, and denounce her conduct. He ordered Nicholls to pay full restitution to Edmondson’s estate.
“I will say quite bluntly, Ms. Nicholls was a person who was to care for Mr. Edmondson, to do him favours and assist him. She was not caring for him. She was preying upon him. She was not an assistant. She was a vulture. And she was not an unwitting one,” Brooks said. “She could see before her the decline in his health. She could see exactly what she was doing and there was no hesitation.”
From 2001 until September 2005, Nicholls provided care to Edmondson’s wife, Louise, at Glengarry Hospital. After Louise died, Nicholls kept in contact with Edmondson, repeatedly asking him for money. She told him she needed money for tires for her car, tutoring for her son, and furthering her own education.
“But the stories she told were not true,” Brooks said. “Ms. Nicholls was addicted to gambling and she lied to Mr. Edmondson.”
Crown prosecutor Chandra Fisher told the court that Edmondson had $70,000 in his chequing account in December 2003. By January 2007, despite receiving $37,000 from his wife’s estate, $15,000 for a fall and $7,000 a month from pensions, his money was gone and his cheques were bouncing.
In 2007, Edmondson took out two loans. Nicholls, who had his bank card and PIN, accompanied Edmondson to the bank. One of the loans was to get the car Edmondson had bought Nicholls out of the pawn shop.
Edmondson, in his late 80s, had set himself up for financial security and that was taken from him, Brooks said.
During this time, Edmondson’s health was precarious, said the judge. He was diagnosed with colon cancer and had surgery in June 2007.
When he left hospital in August 2007, Edmondson needed $30,000 worth of dental work — but could not afford it. He lived with significant pain for six months until he had the money to pay for the dental work. During this time, Nicholls continued to ask him for money.
“Ms. Nicholls knows this person has a significant amount of money, but she has taken virtually all of it. His health is going downhill, and she continues to take from him,” Brooks said. “The amounts of money increase in 2008. At the end of 2008, he goes into hospital again and there are more cheques to Ms. Nicholls. He gets out of hospital on Jan. 12, 2009. The day after he is released, Ms. Nicholls has three cash withdrawals.”
Eventually, Edmondson’s daughter, Dianne Dares, discovered the fraud. In victim-impact statements, she and her husband, David, described how devastated Edmondson was when he realized he had been defrauded by someone he trusted.
“He was thrown into a deep depression, he couldn’t believe anyone would do that to him,” Dianne Dares wrote.
“John was a disciplined man, a kind and trusting man, who believed in the good in people,” wrote David Dares, who called his father-in-law a hero.
Edmondson joined the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and went overseas with the South Saskatachewan regiment. He fought at Dieppe and at the battle of Verrières Ridge in Normandy, the two bloodiest days of action in the regiment’s history. He was wounded during the capture of Falaise.
David Dares said that when Edmondson was diagnosed with colon cancer, he didn’t know what was going on with his money. There were cheques he didn’t remember writing and missing money that he couldn’t explain.
“His sons thought he could not manage his affairs and tried to have him deemed unfit,” he said. “John became frightened and thought he was losing his mind. He thought he was in danger of losing his independence, that he would be institutionalized.”
Edmondson turned inward and isolated himself. He couldn’t afford to go to the Victoria Golf Club. His health deteriorated. At the end of his life, his wish was that Nicholls would not be able to defraud anyone else.
“These are terrible, terrible consequences visited on a sterling citizen of this country,” Brooks said.
Dianne Dares said the three-year sentence was appropriate given the elder abuse her father was subjected to over such a long period of time. She said her father was 92 when he finally understood what happened.
“He asked us to keep pursuing this because he felt other elderly people could be involved. When he was interviewed by the police, he was already being assessed for hospice.”
When Edmondson died on Jan. 5, 2013, he knew Nicholls had been fired from her job.
“From the very beginning, this was never about getting the money back that Eva stole from him,” David Dares said. “This was about making sure she didn’t do this to anyone else.”
Dianne Dares said she cried before asking her fragile father if he could give one more statement to police. “He really did as best he could,” she said.