Elderly man’s life savings snatched

AN ELDERLY man who kept all his money in a briefcase instead of trusting a bank was betrayed by two women who snatched his life savings from under his nose.

But a District Court judge has been unable to rule on how much Emma-Marie Stevens and Bronwyn Coleman reaped when they stole the man's briefcase from his Whyalla Norrie home in July 2017.

While prosecutors claimed the case contained $58,000 and personal items including the man's passport and other documents, Stevens told police she had reaped just $1500.

Stevens, 33, and Coleman, 38, both pleaded guilty to aggravated theft.

While Coleman was jailed for a year with a four-month minimum term, Stevens is yet to be sentenced before Judge Beazley, who presided over a disputed facts hearing to determine the amount of cash taken.

Prosecutors and the victim's son-in-law claimed the briefcase contained $58,000 several months before the theft and that the man "did not spend his money, full stop".

The court heard the 89-year old victim had years earlier withdrawn all his money from the bank and kept it inside the leather briefcase hidden inside his loungeroom.

Judge Beazley said he was hamstrung by the victim's "most unfortunate" decision not to give evidence at the hearing.


Stevens did not give evidence at the hearing, and Judge Beazley said he had "grave doubts" over her claims in police interviews that she received just $1500 before being arrested hours after the theft.

Despite finding it was "probable that there was significantly more" than $1500 in the briefcase, Judge Beazley said the victim's decision not to testify left him unable to make a definitive ruling.

"He was the only person who could give direct evidence, for the prosecution, on the issue of how much money was in that briefcase on that night," he said.

The court was not given a reason why the victim made the last-minute decision not to give evidence.

Judge Beazley was unable to find beyond reasonable doubt the briefcase contained at least $28,000 and probably $58,000, noting that Stevens and police seemed at cross-purposes during her formal interviews.

"In many ways the police and (Stevens) were not discussing the same issue. It was not a question of what she received in cash, but how much was in the briefcase," he said.

"I will sentence on the basis that (Stevens) stole at least $1500 in case … it remains a very serious crime to steal even that sum from a (then) 88-year old victim."

Stevens will appear in court for sentencing submissions in December, when prosecutors will submit she should serve time behind bars.

Coleman, who claimed she received just $250 from the crime, was earlier this year jailed for 12 months with a non-parole period of four months.

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