Woman who stole $250,000 from pensioner paroled

Susan Tainsh appearing in court last year. Photo: ODT files
Susan Tainsh appearing in court last year. Photo: ODT files
A woman who stole nearly $250,000 from an ailing pensioner has been paroled at her first hearing.

Susan Elizabeth Tainsh, 57, was locked up for 26 months when she was sentenced on a charge of theft by a person in a special relationship in the Dunedin District Court last year - a term set to expire in August 2025.

A judge ordered she repay just $15,000 of the swindled funds.

At a hearing last month, the Parole Board granted her release, despite questions being raised about her insight into the crimes.

Tainsh met her victim, Arnold Gutteridge, when she was working for Chubb Security installing medical alarms in people’s homes.

In early 2021, just months before the man’s death at the age of 69, he was admitted to a residential care facility as his health plummeted.

Unable to make decisions for himself, he granted Tainsh enduring power of attorney, effectively handing her total control over his financial affairs.

Over the next six months she withdrew $243,310 from his accounts, $88,469 of which she spent on gambling.

At sentencing, the court heard of the massive impact on the victim’s children, who were set to inherit his estate.

Mr Gutteridge’s daughter said the money was going to be spent on her home, family business and her son.

"You took away his financial launch pad into adulthood," she said.

She described the ordeal as "unreal".

"We thought we could trust her."

When Tainsh’s crimes were uncovered, she claimed Mr Gutteridge had wanted her to have the cash and she continued those claims up until sentencing.

After attending a group-based rehabilitation programme at Christchurch Women’s Prison, she was said to have developed "good insight" into her gambling.

The report was less sure about Tainsh’s understanding of her offending but she convinced the Parole Board she took full responsibility for her unlawful actions.

"She now was very clear that she was not entitled to the funds in any way, not legally, morally or ethically," panel convener Judge Anna Skellern said.

"She expressed remorse for the harm that she had done to the victim’s family in terms of spending their inheritance and also the damage that she had done to her own family with her conduct."

Tainsh will be released from prison today on a range of conditions including:

•  To live at a Canterbury address approved by Probation.

•  Not to engage in gambling.

•  Not to contact victims.

•  Not to possess alcohol or non-prescription drugs.

• To attend any programmes as directed.

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz , Court reporter