Community

Thief escapes sentence after targeting the elderly and sick

Gloria Tunstall had her rings recovered by the police that were stolen from her home. Her engagement ring is still missing.
Gloria Tunstall had her rings recovered by the police that were stolen from her home. Her engagement ring is still missing. Alistair Brightman

AN ELDERLY woman has been left unable to trust people in her own home after her cleaner stole five sentimental rings, including her engagement ring.

Gloria Tunstall, 85, is one of four elderly or ill women, who had their jewellery stolen by Teena Maree Ansell while she was cleaning their homes in the Maryborough region.

Ansell, 51, escaped jail time despite pleading guilty in Maryborough Magistrates Court to taking thousands of dollars of jewellery from four people's homes.

The court heard Ansell was caught after her son sold a significant amount of jewellery to a pawn brokers, including a ring which had been reported as stolen.

Mrs Tunstall has made an impassioned plea to see the return of her engagement ring, given to her by her husband 67 years ago - the only piece of jewellery not retrieved after the crimes.

The Maryborough woman had been in hospital for 11 weeks when she received a call from her cleaning service after Ansell was discovered to have taken jewellery from another woman's home.

It was then she found the five rings missing.

The ordeal has left a mark on Mrs Tunstall.

"I feel terrible when people come into my home," she said.

Antigua woman Barbara Wilde, who is suffering terminal gall and liver cancer, also has trouble trusting people after Ansell stole a priceless ring from her home.

The ring, which was taken two days before her 40th wedding anniversary, was moulded from two rings from her mother and grandmother and given to her by her husband, an air force veteran, for their 30th anniversary.

She said she trusts the two women who currently help her but still ensures her purse and valuables are placed away when they come into her home.

"Now the worst thing is people don't trust (cleaners) in their home," she said.

Mrs Wilde was left stung by the theft.

"I may be ill but I'm not an idiot," she said.

The two other victims of Ansell's crimes were in their 80s and also the wives of returned servicemen.

Magistrate Dean Wilkinson on Tuesday sentenced Ansell to six months prison to be suspended for 18 months.

"The offence has been committed while you were in a position of trust provided to care for people who are vulnerable," he said.

Ansell has also resigned from her position at SunCare.

SunCare CEO Russell Mason said as soon as the organisation learnt of the crimes Ansell was stood down and all her clients contacted.

"We have been in operation now for nearly 45 years and this is the first time we have had any employee in this position," he said.

Mr Mason said SunCare has also conducted a review of their procedures for hiring staff.

Topics:  maryborough magistrate's court



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