Woman tells jury transferred inheritance belonged to son

Ipswich Crown Court.

Barbara Bentley gave evidence on the second day of her trial - Credit: Archant

A Hadleigh woman accused of transferring a £75,000 inheritance days before she filed for bankruptcy to avoid paying debts has told a jury the money belonged to her son. 

Barbara Bentley, 59, was declared bankrupt on March 24, 2017, after submitting an online application the day before saying she was unable to pay debts totalling around £27,000 to Babergh District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). 

Leila Chaker, prosecuting for the Insolvency Service, previously told the jury that 10 days prior to the application, Bentley transferred £75,000 into a bank account in the name of her son. 

Bentley had received an inheritance of £80,769 in 2014 following the death of an aunt in Ontario, Canada, Ms Chaker told the court. 

Her aunt, who died in May 2011, had not left a will, the jury heard. 

Giving evidence from the witness box on the second day of her trial, Bentley said she had never met her aunt, but had enjoyed a good relationship with her, speaking two or three times a year over the phone. 

She said she found out about her aunt's death when she received a phone call from her aunt's friend, and there was a suggestion that some money had been left to her son, Robson, who was aged around 16 in 2011. 

Bentley said it was her aunt's wish that the money should go to her son. 

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When asked by her defence barrister, Oliver Haswell, why she hadn't paid back the money she owed with the inheritance, Bentley replied: "It wasn't my money."

Asked why she didn't give the money to Robson when it came through in 2014 as he was then aged 19, Bentley told the jury: "Because he wasn't very good with money, that was the main reason." 

She added she was holding the money until Robson "was able to be careful with it and not squander it all". 

Under cross examination from Ms Chaker, when Bentley was presented with a document describing her as the sole beneficiary of the inheritance, she accepted the money legally belonged to her but insisted her aunt wanted the money to go to her son. 

She added: "It was what my aunt wanted." 

The court previously heard Bentley owed £11,786 to Babergh District Council for housing benefit overpayment, and a further £3,600 to the authority for council tax arrears.

She also owed £11,539 to the DWP for job seekers' allowance benefit overpayment. 

Her debts to Babergh District Council were written off while the debt of £11,539 to the DWP was paid back in September 2017. 

Bentley, of Yeoman Crescent, Hadleigh, has pleaded not guilty to fraudulently disposing of property by making a gift while declared bankrupt. 

The trial is expected to conclude on Wednesday.