A LIVE-IN carer accused of stealing around £26,000 from an elderly Belbroughton couple has been found not guilty on nine charges of theft.

Joy Njoku, aged 30, who was employed by the Housing 21 agency, was said to have been held in high regard by the Sturgeons for the way she had looked after the late Mr Sturgeon and his wife, of Hartle Lane, and she had been trusted with the couple's bank accounts.

But Worcester Crown Court was told that in October 2012 their daughter Rose spotted £4,000 had been transferred from Mr Sturgeon’s savings account into his current one and, fearing it had been hacked into, she contacted police.

The following month Njoku announced she had found a better job after returning from a short stay in London and Peter Arnold, prosecuting, told the court: "She was leaving before things got too hot."

During the trial at Worcester the court was told a thorough examination of Mr Sturgeon’s accounts found 30 cheques, pre-signed in frail handwriting with amounts in bold writing, had been cashed to the names of Njoku or her friend, O A Israel, totalling more than £17,000.

The court was also told there had been withdrawals totalling £8,682 from cash machines – and the prosecution alleged the money was taken “dishonestly and without authority” and while Mr Sturgeon, by that time a widower, was "in no fit state".

But after deliberating for six hours and 24 minutes last Friday the jury in the case returned not guilty verdicts on nine charges of theft.

Despite an invitation of more deliberation time they were unable, however, to decide on three other counts so Njoku was remanded on bail and the case was adjourned until Monday October 10 while the prosecution considers whether to push for a retrial on the undecided charges.

When interviewed by police - Njoku, a mother-of-one, now living in Polecroft Lane, Catford, London, said she had used money to buy ointment for Mr Sturgeon's body and to provide him with "sexual services" - despite the fact he was in his 80s and had severe health conditions.

She said Mr Sturgeon, who was 85 when he died, would take photographs of her in her underwear and when she was naked in the bath.

She also claimed he had asked her to marry him after the death of his wife of 60 years.