A disabled woman who was neglected before her death had her large inheritance eroded from her bank account, police say.
Ann Marie Smith, who had cerebral palsy, died in the Royal Hospital, Adelaide, on April 6 from septic shock, multiple organ failure, severe pressure sores and malnourishment.
The 54-year-old lived alone in her Adelaide home and relied on carers under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Major Crime detectives inspecting Ms Smith’s finances to assess how she spent her money have found a number of irregularities.
Ms Smith was left an inheritance by her dead parents in 2009.
Ann Marie Smith, who had cerebral palsy, died in the Royal Hospital, Adelaide, on April 6 from septic shock, multiple organ failure, severe pressure sores and malnourishment
The 54-year-old lived alone in her Adelaide home and relied on carers under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
Police said two loans from small lending companies were taken out in Ms Smith’s name over the past six years, which were supposedly obtained for the purpose of travel and to buy a new car totalling $70,000.
But the funds were not used for either of those purposes.
Major Crime investigating officer, Detective Senior Sergeant Phil Neagle, said it was ‘most unlikely’ Ms Smith would have obtained the loans without assistance from another person due to her physical disability.
‘They were significant loans. We know she did not travel or buy a new car after they were taken out, but the money is now gone,’ he said.
Police believe the amount of money taken from the inheritance is disproportionate to Ms Smith’s lifestyle.
‘It is a large amount, a lot of money. That line of inquiry is in its infancy, but an excessive amount of money seems to have been withdrawn in recent years,’ Senior Sergeant Neagle said.
‘Ann may well have spent some of the money herself, but we are now trying to ascertain how much and if any has been removed unlawfully from her account and where it went.’
There is a possibility that Ms Smith was exploited by unknown individuals who knew her for her generosity.
Detective Superintendent Des Bray said Major Crime Investigators are seeking information on the use of her 1998 Silver Honda Accord Sedan WDR-166
Some of Ms Smith’s jewellery (pictured) were reported as missing following her tragic death
The exploitation comes just a days after police raised more concerns about Ms Smith’s missing jewellery and the use of her car which racked up $2,000 in fines.
Detective Superintendent Des Bray said Major Crime Investigators are seeking information on the use of her 1998 Silver Honda Accord Sedan WDR-166.
‘We believe Ms Smith’s car was used multiple times from 2015 and her death,’ Detective Bray said.
Ms Smith did not have a drivers licence and the car was not modified to cater to her needs.
However, the vehicle was registered in her name and was used by an unknown person between 2015 and 2018.
In that period, Ms Smith received a total of four fines in excess of $2,000.
The car was slapped with speeding and traffic fines in August 2015, January 2017 and February 2018.
The fines were paid with funds from Ms Smith’s bank account and resulted in her being disqualified for holding or obtaining a driver’s licence.
Police believe Ms Smith was exploited by unknown individuals who knew her for her generosity
Police are also looking for a man who they believe left his car in Ms Smith’s carport and used her vehicle for an undisclosed period of time.
They are also seeking further information about a man and woman who visited Ms Smith regularly at her home between in October and November 2018.
‘We’d like to know anybody who saw the people attending. Police want to know why they were there. Were they providing care to her?’ Detective Bray said.
A total 45 calls have been made to Crime Stoppers from members of the public which have been ‘extremely helpful’.
‘We thank the community for their interest in this case, the 45 calls so far have been extremely helpful and have opened up further lines of enquiry,’ Detective Bray said.
‘There’s lots of things that have come out in this investigation that I wouldn’t think would ever happen… you should be treating Annie just like you treat your mum.
‘You wouldn’t expect any person in 2020 to be neglected in such a way, and secondly you wouldn’t expect somebody that requires others for care in their life to be exploited by anybody.’
Police have launched an investigation into Ms Smith’s appalling death and her carer, who now faces criminal charges has been sacked
Police have launched an investigation into Ms Smith’s appalling death and her carer, who now faces criminal charges has been sacked.
‘The matters referred to by Ms Sharkie are similar to matters that the NDIS Commission either has under active investigation, or has taken enforcement or compliance action on,’ an NDIS spokesperson said.
‘Some of the matters referred to by Ms Sharkie are criminal matters and should be investigated by the appropriate authorities.
‘All alleged criminal conduct matters that the NDIS Commission are made aware of are referred to the Police and other appropriate authorities as relevant. The NDIS Commission cannot undertake criminal investigations.’