Jury likely to get case against Burton today
A jury will decide the fate of an American life coach accused of stealing $56,000 from an elderly Bermudian client today.
Prosecutors told the Supreme Court Melissa Burton, 53, was a gold-digger who transferred thousands out of Katherine Trimingham’s bank accounts while she was on her death bed.
Defence lawyer Mark Pettingill said there was no evidence Ms Burton had done anything that was not in Ms Trimingham’s best interests.
Mr Pettingill said: “If she came back for one minute, could you be sure she would want to see Ms Burton sitting in the box for stealing her money and abusing her?
“It’s important that we drill down on that relationship and what it was.”
Ms Burton, from Sag Harbour, Long Island, New York, was a life coach for Ms Trimingham, who died in December 2016 at the age of 72.
The court had heard that in the days before and after her death, Ms Burton made a series of transfers from Ms Trimingham’s personal account into accounts she controlled.
She denies five counts of theft and a single charge of financial exploitation of a senior.
Ms Burton did not take the stand in her own defence and did not call any defence witnesses.
Larry Mussenden, the Director of Public Prosecutions, told the court the Crown’s case was “clear, reliable and strong”.
He said Ms Burton knew about Ms Trimingham’s 2014 will, which gave financial services firm Fiduciary Partners power of attorney for Ms Trimingham’s estate.
Mr Mussenden added that Ms Burton knew that a “letter of wishes” produced by her a month after Ms Trimingham died was not enough to transfer power of attorney to her.
He said: “What the defence is going to seek to persuade you is that Ms Burton was not acting dishonestly, that she was making these transfers she believed she had the authority to do so. We say no. Not at all.”
He told the court the “letter of wishes” was one of several red herrings introduced by Ms Burton to confuse the case.
Mr Mussenden similarly said there was no evidence of a handwritten will or an oral promise to grant Ms Burton additional powers, despite the defendant’s statement to police.
The court heard Ms Burton told police Ms Trimingham’s housekeeper was a “gold-digger”, although the housekeeper did not benefit from any version of Ms Trimingham’s will.
Mr Mussenden asked: “She gets nothing in the ‘letter of wishes’ and she was getting nothing in the will, so who is the gold-digger?”
He added that Alan Dunch, a lawyer at MJM, had warned Ms Burton to “stay in her lane” and away from Ms Trimingham’s finances.
Be said the life coach still transferred thousands from the elderly woman’s accounts into her own. Mr Pettingill said the Crown’s case was a series of red herrings and there was no evidence to prove Ms Burton was dishonest.
Mr Pettingill said it was unclear who held power of attorney for Ms Trimingham and that even experienced lawyers like Mr Dunch had been confused.
And he said there was nothing to suggest Ms Trimingham ever disapproved of how Ms Burton used her accounts.
Mr Pettingill told the court Ms Trimingham was closer to Ms Burton than anyone and had given her medical power of attorney in 2014.
He added: “This is the lady she gave the power of life to.”
Mr Pettingill said it was not unreasonable that Ms Trimingham would want to change her will to benefit Ms Burton, and it was not disputed that Ms Trimingham signed the “letter of wishes”.
Mr Pettingill asked the jury what they would have done in similar circumstances.
He said: “You had no children, you have stepsons who have nothing to do with you, you have a lawyer who didn’t make it to your funeral and wasn’t involved in your personal life on a day-to-day basis ... who would you want to leave it to?”
Mr Pettingill added there was no evidence on what the money transferred from Ms Trimingham’s account had been used for, but WhatsApp messages from Ms Burton claimed she had paid for Ms Trimingham’s bills in advance for the next two months.
He added: “There is nothing crystal clear about all of these issues.”
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