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A British actress was forced to wear deceased people's clothing while living in a care facility after her friend and costume designer stole thousands of dollars from her, a judge determined.
Margaret Wright, also known as Meg Wynn Owen, appeared in Love Actually, Doctor Who, and Pride & Prejudice. The actress, who died this past summer, suffered from dementia in her later years and moved into a care home in Cardiff, Wales, in 2015. The move came months after Brian Malam, 60, was named her power of attorney due to her mental state, according to Wales Online.
During the sentence proceedings against Malam, who had already entered a guilty plea for fraud, prosecutor Abigail Jackson alleged he stopped visiting Wright and began stealing tens of thousands of pounds from her savings account. Jackson claimed Malam withdrew cash and moved money from Wright's account to his own while acting as her power of attorney, Wales Online reported.
South Wales Police
In the role as power of attorney, he was allegedly supposed to transfer money from Wright's bank accounts to the care center so employees could buy necessities for the actress. Instead, Malam allegedly only sent a couple of payments, leaving Wright without needs such as clothing and a hairdresser.
Because of a lack of funds, employees put Wright in clothes belonging to residents who had died, and cut her hair, the court was told, per the outlet.
In October 2014, the staff knew something was off with Wright's finances, so they took her to her bank to review her statements. Once there, it was revealed that Malam had been stealing from her, according to the prosecutor.
According to Wales Online, the Office of the Public Guardian investigated the case before local police stepped in. Authorities determined Malam took £65,000 (more than $78,000) from Wright over four years.
"Mrs. Wright became terribly upset about it. The matter was then reported to the police in September 2020," Jackson said during his sentencing, according to The Mirror. "That's how the investigation with the police started and the matter came to light."
Speaking with police after his arrest, Malam confessed that he took money from Wright to buy items for his work. However, he said he "always intended to pay her back," per The Mirror.
Despite his reason, Judge Paul Hobson told Malam he was in "an important position of trust carrying with it a great deal of responsibility. ... The position was that you were taking money from her bank account in significant funds and either transferring into your own account or spending it directly," according to Leading Britain's Conversation.
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"As time went on you simply continued in what you were doing knowing full well the money would not be repaid realistically," Judge Hobson continued, per LBC.
Hobson told Malam, per the outlet, "Your victim had to be dressed in clothes that belonged to deceased residents of her care home due to insufficient funds. She was reduced by your actions towards her."
He was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison, per The Mirror. He's set to spend up to half of that time before finishing his sentence via community service.
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Malam's attorney Andrew Davies said in court proceedings that Malam and Wright had been friends for years and that Malam was the only one who took care of Wright. He pointed out that Malam didn't spend her money on "flash cars or luxury holidays" but instead went to fund his costume designing business, Wales Online reported.
He said that Malam suffered from alcoholism and "everything disappeared into a miasma of drink."
Davies did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.