Real estate agent admits defrauding pensioner

A Wellington real estate agent who defrauded a 92-year-old woman out of $171,269 "loved her like a mother", court documents show.

Pat William Walker, 58, appeared yesterday in the Greymouth District Court and was remanded on bail for sentencing in Wellington next month. But his victim, Edith Cavell South - having died in December 2011 - will not see justice served.

Walker yesterday admitted the lead charge of breaching her trust by defrauding Mrs South of $70,000. Crown prosecutor Phil Shamy then withdrew another 33 charges in relation to Walker's use of his victim's chequebook and eftpos card.

The summary showed that Walker met Mrs South, who was born in Dunollie, in Wellington in the late 1990s when he acted for her in property deals.

They became friends and, upon the death of Mrs South's husband, he gained her trust and was granted power of attorney over her affairs.

In November 2007, Mrs South sold her property in Wellington, receiving $181,000, which was deposited in her ANZ bank account. She then made arrangements with Walker to purchase a property at Dick Street, Reefton for $70,000.

The property was owned by one of Walker's real estate colleagues in Wellington.

Mrs South moved in, and paid for repairs to the house but eventually after three years learned she had no legal claim to the property because her $70,000 check had been banked into Walker's own account. By then Walker's dishonesty had left her penniless.

In addition Walker also had $6000 of Mrs South's money paid into his brother's account and used other cheques, to purchase goods or services from a variety of businesses or pay bills or rentals in the name of his West Coast company, Scenicland Realty, which operated out of the Professionals agency in Greymouth.

In total he stole $171,269 from the pension's account.

When arrested, Walker told police he loved Mrs South like his mother.

In April 2011, the Real Estate Agents Authority struck Walker off.

Mrs South's fortunes picked up in mid-2011 when the Professionals, the real estate agency Walker had been associated with, reimbursed her the $70,000 and the Mad Butcher franchise bought a house in Reefton for her to live in rent-free for the rest of her days.

However, her tenure was just five months. Mrs South died on December 19, 2011 and was laid to rest in Reefton on Christmas Eve.

Lawyer Doug Taffs asked yesterday that the sentencing take place in Wellington because Walker resided there.

"The victim has passed away and has no family on the West Coast. I believe the nearest is in Australia, so there is no particularly personal reason why it should be here in Greymouth."

Despite Walker's offending, Judge Raoul Neave indicated that he would not be jailed, but would receive an electronically monitored sentence.

He will be sentenced in Wellington on March 28.

- The Greymouth Star

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