A WELL-LIKED live-in carer “raised the spirits” of an elderly Belbroughton couple – but also stole more than £25,000 from them, a jury was told.

Joy Njoku, 30, took the money through cheques pre-signed in “frail” handwriting by 85-year-old Peter Sturgeon, and through several cash point withdrawals over the course of the 18 months she worked for him, it was alleged at Worcester Crown Court.

Njoku, who denies two counts of theft, claimed to police that the money was spent on ointment and “sexual services” for Mr Sturgeon, despite the fact he had severe health conditions, said Peter Arnold, prosecuting.

Mr Arnold said that Njoku, who worked for the Housing 21 agency, was taken on as a live-in carer for Mr and Mrs Sturgeon, who had been married for 60 years, at their Belbroughton home in May 2011.

“Joy was liked by the family – she raised the spirits of Mr and Mrs Sturgeon,” he said.

Mrs Sturgeon, who had a heart condition, died in September 2011, but Njoku continued to look after Mr Sturgeon.

He was said to be “mentally fine” but suffered from digestive problems, cellulitis and ulcers, and was fitted with a colostomy bag.

Njoku, now of Polecroft Lane, Catford, London, was trusted with access to the couple’s bank accounts.

But, in October 2012, their daughter Rose spotted that £4,000 had been transferred from Mr Sturgeon’s savings account into his current one and, worried it had been hacked into, contacted police.

Mr Arnold said that Njoku, “fearing that she was about to be exposed”, went to London for a couple of days in November 2012, and soon after announced she had found a better job.

“She was leaving before things got too hot,” he added.

A more thorough examination of Mr Sturgeon’s accounts found that 30 cheques, pre-signed in frail handwriting but with amounts written in bold, had been cashed to Njoku or her friend, O A Israel, totalling more than £17,000.

It was also found that a total of £8,682 had been withdrawn from cash machines, which the prosecution alleges was taken "dishonestly and without authority”.

Records showed that some of the money was cashed when Mr Sturgeon, who died the following February, was “in no fit state” – and some while Njoku was on holiday.

Mr Arnold said that Njoku had “made play” when interviewed by police of having used the money legitimately to buy ointment for Mr Sturgeon’s body.

She later gave a variety of explanations, including that some was for “Forever Living” products.

And, despite the age and physical condition of Mr Sturgeon, she maintained that some of the money was to provide him with “sexual services”.

The trial continues.