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Animal lover used mum's £84k inheritance to look after cats

By The Citizen  |  Posted: October 10, 2012

Marlene Howes

Marlene Howes

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ANIMAL lover Marlene Howes has been cleared of benefit fraud after using an £84,000 inheritance from her late mother to look after her pedigree cats.

The 67-year-old, from Whitecroft, near Lydney, was accused of hiding the inheritance from the Department of Work and Pensions in order to receive pension credits and council tax discounts.

Mrs Howes, who has 25 Persian cats herself, insisted her mum Barbara Sutton wanted the money to be used to keep her 14 Persian cats as they always had been – in the lap of luxury.

And after examining Mrs Howes’ bank accounts and spending records yesterday, District Judge Joti Bopa-Rai cleared her of acting dishonestly by continuing to claim benefits despite receiving the inheritance.

“It has been a very stressful time,” Mrs Howes told The Citizen after her court appearance. “I am very relieved and happy with the outcome.

“All I have done all along is what my mother instructed me to do. The case should never have been brought to court.”

Mrs Howes told Gloucester Magistrates Court she had received £136,000 from the sale of her late mother's house in Cranbrook Road, Bristol, in 2005. But £52,000 was to be given to the son of her late mother's partner, and there was a verbal agreement for her to look after the cats.

She opened an account specifically for the cats and used the money from it to pay for all their food, litter, vets bills - and even a new conservatory to give them more living space.

The court heard it never occurred to Mrs Howes to notify the Department of Work Pensions or the district council of the estate.

Mrs Howes told the court her mum's prized cats had always had the best of everything and she wanted that to continue after her death.

Judge Bopa-Rai said the money left by Mrs Sutton was running out and would soon be gone.

“It is quite clear the defendant was not living an extravagant lifestyle and the cats took the majority of the money. It is quite clear from all the statement that this defendant’s mother’s main concern was the care of her cats and they were precious to her.”

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  • Hello___K  |  October 12 2012, 4:59PM

    Benefit scroungers are pretty much a myth these days invented by the Daily Mail. Honestly, something like 2% aren't entitled to what they're claiming these days and if that means the other 98% get the help they need then that's ok by me! Not that Mrs Howes was scrounging benefits anyway!

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  • Dr_Hfrrrrr  |  October 12 2012, 4:57PM

    Tsk, benefit scroungers...

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  • wjanson2k  |  October 12 2012, 4:41PM

    Tsk, bigots!

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  • Dr_Hfrrrrr  |  October 12 2012, 4:35PM

    Thanks! :)

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  • Hello___K  |  October 12 2012, 4:29PM

    What an incredibly well thought out response.

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  • Dr_Hfrrrrr  |  October 12 2012, 4:20PM
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  • Dr_Hfrrrrr  |  October 12 2012, 4:17PM

    Tsk, cat people...

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  • wjanson2k  |  October 12 2012, 3:51PM

    The amount of Daily Mail readers on here is staggering. The woman was perfectly (so tempted to make a pun there) within the law she has carried out her duty as trustee of the funds. I know i'd have to build a conservatory if I had to look after that many cats.

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  • Hello___K  |  October 12 2012, 3:28PM

    Can you claim a benefit for what? See this is why I think you people are trolling, making very little sense, if at all!

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  • Hello___K  |  October 12 2012, 3:27PM

    You are a ghastly person. There is no reason she will need to have the cats put to sleep, Persians are incredibly easy to rehome.

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