WHEN Valerie Peeler moved to Burton, she was full of hope for starting afresh and meeting new people.
But her dreams came crashing down when a neighbour and close friend stole precious jewellery and wrecked the safe haven she had built.
The perpetrator, Patricia Brown, was yesterday jailed for 12 weeks for stealing two bracelets from Mrs Peeler.
Her family has now warned others to be on their guard against ‘false friends’, who could try to take advantage of older and vulnerable people.
Mrs Peeler’s daughter Lucy Wileman said: “This wasn’t what we thought would happen at all. We thought we had her settled into somewhere she would feel safe, but that woman ruined everything mum hoped for when she moved here. We thought she was a nice lady.”
Mrs Peeler, 66, moved to Burton to be closer to her family after nursing her late husband through cancer.
When she arrived last July, she was determined to be independent and not rely on her daughters, and struck up a friendship with neighbour Brown, who lived two doors away in Cameron Close, Stapenhill.
They bonded over a mutual love of animals and their friendship deepened over time.
But earlier this year, Mrs Peeler noticed items were going missing, and her suspicions fell on her friend.
One of the items was a charm bracelet given to her on her 21st birthday, and another was a gift from her late husband.
When she confronted Brown, she tried to convince her she had handed over the items as a gift – making Mrs Peeler fear for her mental state.
Mrs Wileman said: “She made my mum think she was losing her marbles, and it meant she didn’t want to speak to us about it. Mum was so upset. It’s so cruel.
“These items had so many memories. They were my mum’s treasures.
“It hurts that someone who was supposed to be a friend could do this.”