The granddaughter of an elderly war hero who had his £184,000 life savings stolen by his carers said he trusted and wouldn't hear "a bad word" said about them because he was such a kind man.

The heartless married couple, Steven and Sarah Kantecki, fleeced 96-year-old Eric Woodhouse over a 17-month period, emptying his bank account through cash and debit card withdrawals.

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They splashed out £80k on his debit card and withdrew £90k from cash points, buying luxury goods including 60 watches and over 200 bottles of perfume, and in court their home was described as looking "like a department store" as it was brimming with their purchases at his expense.

The couple, from Bridlington, were each jailed for four years and nine months following a trial at Hull Crown Court in July. Jurors took just 30 minutes to unanimously convict them of theft.

Eric's granddaughter, Anna Woodhouse, said the crime was "devastating for the family" and her grandfather had been frugal his whole life, which sickened the family even more when they saw what the thieves had splurged on.

Steven and Sarah Kantecki were each jailed for four years and nine months
Steven and Sarah Kantecki were each jailed for four years and nine months

Mr Woodhouse's grandchildren were suspicious, as was his good friend and neighbour, but his family said he was "such a nice man" that he would get upset by any criticisms of the callous pair.

Anna, 44, is speaking out after launching a petition for a change in the law after discovering her grandfather, who died three months after the deception was finally uncovered, was vulnerable due to a gap in legislation.

Because he didn't like having agency carers who would frequently change and he didn't ever get to know who was looking after him, he came to a "private arrangement" with the Kanteckis, who had previously experience working in the care sector and had looked after his late wife Olga, and son, Matthew, who died in 2015, while employed with an agency.

But if they're not employed via an agency or care home, they're currently classed as "personal assistants" and therefore do not need to go through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and could even set up as carers again once released from prison.

Anna said: "Carers do an amazing job and I am sure the majority wouldn't dream of doing something like this. But this is the only part of the care sector that is unregulated and we need to do something to protect the vulnerable."

She said she had immediate suspicions about the pair, which was heightened when her grandfather, who lived alone in his Bridlington house after the death of his wife from Alzheimer's, called her one day.

"I received a phone call from him and I could hear them coaching him in the background, saying 'we are your family now and we are the best carers in the world'.

"Alarm bells were ringing straight away."

Eric's grand-daughter Anna Woodhouse has launched a petition to call for private carers to under DBS checks
Eric's grand-daughter Anna Woodhouse has launched a petition to call for private carers to under DBS checks

She said her and her brother, and Eric's good friend and neighbour Martin, all tried to speak to him about their fears but he wouldn't accept their criticisms, as he was "too kind" to be distrustful.

"There was an element of pride too, he had capacity a lot of the time, but he was getting a bit forgetful and it was difficult to raise it without hurting his pride. We didn't really know how to handle it or where to turn."

When the theft was uncovered, and the scale of the betrayal, Anna was it was "devastating" to the family and her grandfather.

"The sheer scale if it shocked and disgusted me. The police said their house was like a department store, I saw the images from their body-cam when they went in, and there was masses of stuff, they'd p***ed his life savings away on absolute crap.

""He was so frugal, that's how he got his money. He kept a log of every penny that came in and every penny that went out, and he had all his life, he was meticulous. They tried to say he wanted to treat them, but his way of treating you was putting a £25 cheque in a card, he was modest.

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"It wasn't just that. They were like cuckoos in a nest, trying to replace us.

"They treated him and his house like rubbish, throwing rubbish on the floor, and putting their slippers on the hearth. That was my father's childhood home, it felt like a violation."

Sadly, Eric passed away just two months after the Kaneckis crimes were uncovered, but he did live to see the bank return his savings.

Anna is now working with charities to highlight abuse of the elderly and hopes to "open up the conversation" about what to do if you suspect a family member is suffering it.

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"It's been an absolutely horrendous time for the family, but at least now we can get this conversation started and make more people aware that this can happen. Most carers are wonderful people, and what this has taught me is that family, friends, the police, everyone involved showed such care and humanity, that restored my faith in humanity."

Anna has been in touch with numerous MPs to highlight the gap in legislation and has launched a petition, which can be signed by clicking here.

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