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Man tried to steal £2,100,000 left to charity by friend who died of cancer

Stewart Pearman had been friends with the woman he attempted to steal from for more than 25 years prior to her death from cancer in 2016 (Picture: PA)

A man who attempted to pocket £2 million left to charity by an elderly friend before she died of cancer has been jailed.

Stewart Pearman, 75, of Tewksebury, Gloucestershire, was jailed for five years and three months at Worcester Crown Court on Thursday.

Pearman – a sheep farmer by profession, according to local reports – admitted fraud and making a false statement on oath earlier in September.

His scheme involved forging a letter to solicitors that claimed he stood to inherit £2,186,079 from the estate of a friend. 

The elderly woman, who had been friends with Pearman for more than 25 years before she died in 2016, had made him the main beneficiary and sole executor of her will. 

However, she had in fact only left £25,000 to Pearman, and specified that remaining millions should be given to an air ambulance charity. 

Following the woman’s death, Pearman showed the forged letter to solicitors, who had doubts about his claims and began to investigate them. 

The lawyers not only discovered Pearman had himself penned the letter, but also learned from the deceased woman’s GP that she would not in fact have been of sound enough mind to have understood the letter at the time she was supposed to have signed it.

Detective Constable Simon Timbrell of West Mercia Police said: ‘This was a despicable crime that sought to both take advantage of an incredibly vulnerable woman and deny a lifesaving charity vital funds.’

Worcester Crown Court, where a judge on Thursday sentenced Pearman for fraud and making a false statement under oath (Picture: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

He added: ‘We hope this sentence sends a strong message that anyone seeking to take advantage of vulnerable people, particularly for financial gain, will be prosecuted.’

Timbrell clarified that the woman’s estate would now be distributed as she had intended, with the air ambulance charity receiving the initial sum granted in her original will.

In addition to forging the letter received by solicitors, Pearman further conned two men – Luke Derret and Aleksander Yuriev Shikov – into signing the document as witnesses. 

Both men later submitted sworn affidavits saying they had put their names to the forged letter after the woman had died.

Derret and Shikov have since pleaded guilty to wilfully making a false statement on oath. They received four-month prison terms, which were suspended for 12 months. 

The judge ordered Pearman to pay £1,500, and Derret and Shikov to pay £510, to cover prosecution costs and a victim surcharge. Derret and Shikov were also ordered to undertake 60 hours of unpaid work.

Gurminder Sanghera, a senior legal manager for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: ‘Stewart Pearman betrayed a friendship of 25 years and abused his position of trust as an executor of a dying lady’s will, for his own personal benefit.

Sanghera added: ‘[Pearman] dishonestly manufactured a forged letter of wishes so that he would receive an extra £2 million which was intended to benefit an air ambulance charity – and be used to save lives.

‘The CPS work closely with the police to bring fraudulent offenders like these to justice.’

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