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Niece describes ‘nightmare’ visits to see alleged senior abuse victim

The niece of alleged senior abuse victim Lenice Tucker cried on the witness box yesterday as she recalled how it became a “nightmare” for her to visit her aunt after a maintenance man moved into the property.

Sharon Raynor said Alvin (Kelly) Jones moved into Tuckers' Villa on Middle Road, Southampton, after Ms Tucker's 91-year-old sister Lesseline died in July 2010.

Lesseline left $540,000 in five bank accounts to which Ms Tucker was a joint signatory.

Ms Tucker's granddaughters Lorraine Smith and Audra-Ann Bean, of Warwick, are accused of “descending” upon their grandmother after her sister's death and deceiving her into adding them as bank account signatories so they could access the money.

They deny stealing almost half a million dollars from 87-year-old Ms Tucker and abusing a senior by financial exploitation.

Ms Raynor appeared at their Supreme Court trial as a prosecution witness, where she told the jury she agreed to be the sole executrix of Lesseline's will.

Defence lawyer Larry Mussenden, cross-examining, asked if she recalled having a conversation with Mr Jones “about money that was supposed to be left to him” by Lesseline.

Ms Raynor said the conversation was not about the will. Asked what it concerned, she said: “It wasn't a good conversation.”

She said handyman Mr Jones used to do things around the house for Ms Tucker, Lesseline and another sister, Marjorie.

Mr Mussenden suggested after Lesseline's death his “whole demeanour changed towards you” and “he started to become almost verbally abusive”.

Ms Raynor agreed he did and said he used profanities towards her. She described how the atmosphere became bad at Tuckers' Villa.

“He accused me of being a thief and stealing the money that Lesseline left him,” she said tearfully, adding that she went to the law firm dealing with the will for advice.

Mr Mussenden asked why she did that and she replied: “Because he was abusive. He accused me of things. I was concerned about my aunties.”

Asked if Ms Tucker and Marjorie started to treat her differently, Ms Raynor began crying and said: “Yes.”

She added “they didn't want me around” and agreed it “became a nightmare” for her at Tuckers' Villa.

The trial earlier heard, when Ms Tucker was giving evidence, that Government was called in to remove Mr Jones from the property after he became abusive to her and used the yard as an auto garage.

Yesterday's hearing also heard evidence from two bank workers about Ms Tucker and her granddaughters opening joint accounts in July 2010, days after Lesseline's death.

HSBC banking specialist Karimah Moore was asked by Crown counsel Garrett Byrne about July 20, 2010. She said an elderly woman and two younger females came into the bank's Church Street branch to open an account.

They provided identification showing they were Ms Tucker, Ms Smith, 46, and Ms Bean, 44.

Ms Moore, referring to documents filled out that day, said the paperwork showed the source of funds for the account was four other accounts in the name of Ms Tucker, containing more than $400,000.

The account set up in the names of the three women was an “and/or” account”, she explained, meaning any of the three could conduct transactions without the other signatories.

Ms Moore said she couldn't remember who made the decision to have such an account, rather than one where signatures were required from all parties.

Ms Moore said she didn't see Ms Tucker alone at any point and couldn't remember which of the three women did more talking.

Under cross-examination by Mr Mussenden, Ms Moore was asked to look at a statement she gave police on July 15, 2011.

He asked her to read a paragraph in which she said Ms Tucker “stated that she wished to put her granddaughters on the account”.

Mr Mussenden asked: “Are you satisfied that's what happened?” Ms Moore replied: “Yes.”

Donna Place, a personal banker at Butterfield, described how Ms Tucker and Ms Bean came into the bank's Rosebank branch on July 21 to open an account together, with Ms Smith, who was also to be a signatory, joining them later.

Ms Place said Ms Bean did most of the talking. Mr Mussenden asked her if it was actually the case that Ms Tucker and Ms Bean went to the bank on July 20 and Ms Smith went in the following day to complete the paperwork.

The witness said she couldn't say for sure.

The case continues.

Lenice Tucker, 87, leaving the Supreme Court trial of her granddaughters Lorraine Smith and Audra-Ann Bean, who are accused of stealing $500,000 from her. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published April 20, 2012 at 10:00 am (Updated April 20, 2012 at 10:04 am)

Niece describes ‘nightmare’ visits to see alleged senior abuse victim

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