Two former paramedics who posed as nurses to steal morphine and painkillers from terminally ill patients to satisfy their opiate addictions have been jailed for five years each.
Ruth Lambert and Jessica Silvester, who are engaged, preyed on patients across Kent receiving end-of-life care during lockdown, posing as nurses to gain access to their homes to steal the medication.
Lambert, 33, and Silvester, 29, had access to patient records on the NHS computer system by their work as paramedics with the South East Coast Ambulance Service.
The associate, from Margate, would trade WhatsApp messages identifying victims and then visit and steal from them in Thanet, Canterbury, Whitstable, Faversham and Herne Bay in Kent.
A probe found that they had carried out up to 29 burglaries, with Silvester searching the NHS databases for possible targets and Lambert raiding the similarities.
The stolen drugs had originally been prescribed to some of the targeted patients to make their final days as comfortable as possible.
Lambert and Silvester pleaded guilty to conspiring to burgle and conspiring to commit theft – having also stolen a £14,000 ultrasound machine from the NHS – and were each sentenced yesterday at Canterbury Crown Court to five years in prison.
Their lawyers argued that they became addicted to opiates after discovering the drugs helped treat physical and mental pain.
Ruth Lambert (right) and Jessica Silvester (left), who are engaged, preyed on patients receiving end-of-life care during lockdown, posing as nurses to gain access to their homes to steal the medication
A probe found that they had carried out up to 29 burglaries, with Silvester (left) searching the NHS databases for possible targets and Lambert (right) raiding the similarities
Their offending came to light last year when Kent Police began to receive a number of similar reports of distraction burglaries, and the pair were arrested on August 4 at their home in Margate in relation to a burglary in the town two days earlier.
Upon their arrest, officers searched their home and found medication bearing the names of other people in addition as nurses’ uniforms and NHS computer equipment.
By analysing the defendants’ mobile phones, officers from the Chief Constable’s Crime Squad confirmed the two thieves had also conspired to steal from the ambulance service by stealing medication from ambulances when on duty and from NHS reserves.
Text messages between the two referred to the drugs as ‘sweets’.
An examination of the calls system during a period of just over three months of the total time they were offending, showed Silvester’s login details were used 1,847 times to access the NHS computer system and review calls.
The two women also kept a diary, logging addresses visited, the medication obtainable and any notes of interest, such as if they were refused entry to a character.
The records accessed and the diary allowed officers to cross-reference information in order to clarify more offences carried out by Lambert and Silvester.
Many of the victims were not aware of any wrongdoing until the police arrived and made enquiries, piecing together the offences with the assistance of next of kin and victims.
Lambert, 33, and Silvester, 29, had access to patient records on the NHS computer system by their work as paramedics with the South East Coast Ambulance Service
CCTV and mobile phone cell data also confirmed the offenders had been at the scenes of many of the burglaries reported to police.
Officers established at the minimum 25 burglaries had been carried out by Lambert and Silvester over a period of nine months from December 2020.
The investigation found they stole medication from three further similarities by knocking on doors and convincing occupants they were collecting the medication for authentic reasons after their loved ones had passed away.
They also carried out multiple thefts from the ambulance service between 2018 and 2021.
During their enquiries, police were able to return medical equipment to the NHS, valued at over £14,000.
Detective Sergeant Jay Robinson from Kent Police’s Chief Constable’s Crime Squad said: ‘When reports came in regarding suspicious individuals visiting similarities looking for medication, further work was carried out to review earlier burglary reports to Kent Police to see if they were connected. This led to the extent of Lambert and Silvester’s offending becoming clear.
‘These offences were an astonishing abuse of position. These two thieves, whose jobs were to care for those in need, were plotting and stealing crucial medication from terminally ill patients. Many of their victims have since passed away and will never know that justice has been done. Our investigation was carried out, knowing we had to represent those victims and do the very best for them.
‘My thoughts are with the families of all those who were targeted by these thieves. We thank them for their sustain during what must have been an already difficult and sad time for them.’
Dr Fionna Moore, Medical Director for South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said last night (TUES): ‘We are shocked and saddened at the lengths to which these former members of staff went to, to commit their crimes and our thoughts are with all those affected.
‘Their behaviour was a clear and targeted abuse of their position and does not mirror the commitment and integrity of our staff. As soon as we became aware of the allegations, we took rapid action to suspend and then dismiss both individuals, working closely with Kent Police.’
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