A judge has thrown out the case against an accountant accused of draining hundreds of thousands of pounds from her mother’s bank account.

Prosecutors claimed that Paula Macpherson, 55, stole more than £600,000 from her elderly mother between 2011 and 2016, spending the cash on car payments, property and lavish holidays to the Maldives and Oman.

The defendant’s case was that her mother, who has dementia, gave her permission to transfer the large sums into her own hands.

Other evidence, including minutes of a meeting with her financial adviser, showed the North Yorkshire woman was pre-occupied with estate planning in order to limit the amount of inheritance tax her two children would pay.

Before the trial started at Oxford Crown Court last month, a judge had ruled that the mother’s two police statements – made in 2016 and 2018 – could be read to the jury, despite the defendant taking issue with what she said in them.

After further evidence emerged during the course of the trial casting doubts over the woman’s memory, lawyers for Macpherson argued at the close of the Crown Prosecution Service’s case that the matter should be thrown out – and the jury directed to acquit the defendant.

READ MORE: Prosecution opens case against alleged fraudster

Adam Pearson, prosecuting, said reasonable inferences could be drawn from Macpherson’s behaviour, such as the fact transfers from her mother’s account into her own were labelled ‘bond transfers’ and that she allegedly moved money between accounts under her control.

The defendant’s conduct ‘bears all the hallmarks of fraudulent behaviour’, Judge Lamb said in summarising the Crown’s argument.

In a lengthy ruling on the defence application for the case to be thrown out, given on Friday (March 31), the judge said: “The prosecution case crystallises in [the mother] and particularly in her two statements that there was no permission for the transfers which were made and these two statements are critical to the prosecution case.”

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She added: “I have found this a difficult exercise, but it does seem to me that there is a danger and I can’t work from what are said to be inferences of dishonesty backwards.

“Particularly in a case where the witness hasn’t been present to have an alternative explanation canvassed with her.

“I am not the fact finder here and I am not here to make a finding of whether or not the defendant has acted dishonestly in respect of her mother’s accounts, only to make an objective analysis of whether it is safe to leave this case to the jury having heard, now, as I have done some more evidence about the witness's reliability."

The judge said: "I need to look at the overall picture here in this untested hearsay evidence and its strengths and weaknesses

“I am in a very unusual situation but nevertheless a situation with which I must grapple.”

On Monday (April 3), the judge directed the jury to return not guilty verdicts to five counts of fraud. Macpherson, of Sibford Ferris, Oxfordshire, was sitting in court next to her solicitor as the verdicts were pronounced.