A retired window cleaner who inherited £280,000 from an elderly customer has been jailed for 12 months after he failed to return the money.
Albert Pearce, 83, looked after Julie Spalding in her final years and was the sole beneficiary of her will when she died aged 98 in 2008.
Miss Spalding’s nephew contested the will and Pearce, from Finchley, in north London, was ordered to give the money back.
After he failed to do so, he was made bankrupt and a trustee in bankruptcy tried to find out what he did with the money.
The High Court heard how Pearce repeatedly lied about what he had done with the money.
Lady Justice Gloster said it was an ‘extremely serious case of deliberate contempt of court’.
Pearce claimed he had no bank accounts and no assets of any value, other than a car worth £5,000.
He repeatedly claimed there was £300,000 in cash in the boot of the car, but that bailiffs had taken it away.
He then said he spent all the money on three world cruises, gambling it away in casinos and racetracks and on other holidays in Scotland and the Midlands.
Mrs Justice Andrews said that even if Pearce had won the money in a casino, it was ‘wholly implausible’ that he would have left such a large amount of money in his car.
She said: ‘The reason that the loss was not reported, and that no complaint was made about it, was because it did not happen.’
She said it appeared that Pearce felt a moral entitlement to keep the money as he cared for Ms Spalding in her final years, but unfortunately for him, he had no legal right to it.