Prison sentences for Margate women who used their ambulance service jobs to steal medication from terminally ill residents

Jailed: Lambert and Silvester

Two women working as South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) paramedics   who stole medication from terminally ill residents in east Kent have been jailed.

Ruth Lambert, 33, and 29-year-old Jessica Silvester preyed on patients receiving end-of-life care packages, posing as nurses to gain access to their homes to steal morphine and other painkillers.

The stolen medication had originally been prescribed to some of the targeted patients to make their final days as comfortable as possible. The pair had access to patient records through their work as paramedics with the South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) and would visit the addresses where they would then steal the medication.

Lambert and Silvester worked in tandem, one researching the addresses and sending details to the other who would visit and steal. Victims were targeted in Thanet, Canterbury, Whitstable, Faversham and Herne Bay.

Uncovering the evidence

Their offending came to light in August 2021 when Kent Police began to receive a number of similar reports of distraction burglaries. The pair were arrested on 4 August at their home in Gap Road, Margate, in relation to a burglary in the town two days earlier.

Officers searched their home and found medication bearing the names of other people, as well as nurses’ uniforms and NHS computer equipment.

By analysing the defendants’ mobiles, officers from the Chief Constable’s Crime Squad confirmed the two thieves had also conspired to steal from the ambulance service with theft of medication from ambulances when on duty and from NHS reserves. Text messages between the two referred to the drugs as ‘sweets’.

An examination of the calls system during a period of just over three months of the total time they were offending, showed Silvester’s login details were used 1,847 times to access the NHS computer system and review calls.  The two women also kept a diary, logging addresses visited, the medication available and any notes of interest, such as if they were refused entry to a property.

The records accessed and the diary allowed officers to cross-reference information and identify more offences carried out by Lambert and Silvester. Many of the residents were not aware of any wrongdoing until the police arrived and made enquiries, piecing together the offences with the assistance of next of kin and victims.

CCTV and mobile phone cell data also confirmed the offenders had been at the scenes of many of the burglaries reported to police.

Targeting properties and the ambulance service

Ruth Lambert arrest

Officers established at least 25 burglaries had been carried out by Lambert and Silvester over a period of nine months from December 2020. The investigation found they stole medication from three further properties by knocking on doors and convincing occupants they were collecting the medication for legitimate reasons after their loved ones had passed away.

They also carried out multiple thefts from the ambulance service between 2018 and 2021. During their enquiries, police were able to return medical equipment to the NHS, valued at over £14,000.

The pair pleaded guilty to conspiring to burgle and conspiring to commit theft. They were each sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court today (January 11) to five years in prison.

‘Astonishing abuse of position’

Detective Sergeant Jay Robinson from the Chief Constable’s Crime Squad said: “When reports came in regarding suspicious individuals visiting properties looking for medication, further work was carried out to review earlier burglary reports to Kent Police to see if they were linked. This led to the scale of Lambert and Silvester’s offending becoming clear.

“These offences were an astonishing abuse of position. These two thieves, whose jobs were to care for those in need, were plotting and stealing crucial medication from terminally ill patients. Many of their victims have since passed away and will never know that justice has been done. Our investigation was carried out, knowing we had to represent those victims and do the very best for them.

“My thoughts are with the families of all those who were targeted by these thieves. We thank them for their support during what must have been an already difficult and sad time for them.”

‘Shocked and saddened’

Dr Fionna Moore, Medical Director for South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said staff were shocked by the pair’s actions.

She said: “We are shocked and saddened at the lengths to which these former members of staff went to, to commit their crimes and our thoughts are with all those affected.

“Their behaviour was a clear and targeted abuse of their position and does not reflect the commitment and integrity of our staff. As soon as we became aware of the allegations, we took swift action to suspend and then dismiss both individuals, working closely with Kent Police.”

23 Comments

    • Words don’t fail me. They are low-life scum who deserve a punishment far worse than that which they shall receive. I am disappointed that they were not caught earlier which is a reflection on the useless authorities that are meant to protect the vulnerable, young and elderly. Denying the terminally ill their medical comfort in their last days is an act that places these women on the lowest rung of the human ladder.

  1. Beyond belief, my wife and I were always proud to work in the NHS (wife 42 years me 39 years) . We worked with and met some wonderful human beings over those years and felt it a privilege to be able to care for others who needed that care.
    I feel so sorry for all the NHS staff who have worked alongside these frauds who have betrayed the service.
    Shame on them.

  2. these sentences in no way reflect the crime , they will have a cushy little stay somewhere and then be back on our streets. its sad that you cannot trust anyone nowadays , even people we trust with our lives !

  3. Horrendous.
    Has similarities to our Tory MP’s and their masters enabling the removal of stroke services at the QEQM and the downgrading and privatising our NHS. Lying, deceit and threatening peoples wellbeing and lives is the stock in trade of the Tories over the last decade. These two were completely immoral, just remember who in this country is setting the example!

      • Peter, this afternoon the Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to apologise to parliament after he broke the law, a law that meant that tens of thousands of people could not see or attend their loved ones who were dying in Care Homes, Hospitals, or Hospices, whilst he was partying! Johnson can be linked to these vile women, because he is a proven liar, and immoral too, and deserves public opprobrium as do these two!

  4. We now know that we have killer police in society, theiving paramedics, who would steal from the dead.

    What next, I suppose someone will say we can’t even trust the prime minister. Anyway, if you’ve got any booze to spare (got to take my own), I’m off to a party, oh sorry, I meant a work meeting.

  5. my mother was one of the victims and they stole all her morphine amongst other vital medication she needed, my mum was traumatised by this happening to her and took a turn for the worse with her cancer which resulted in her dying within 2 weeks, taken to early and all they got was 5 years each

    • Carol Bowes, sorry to hear what happened to your mum, at least she had you to help.

      It makes me wonder, how many people may have been on their own, when these monsters took control of their drugs, and perhaps passed away without even anyone knowing what has happened, because they were too ill, vulnerable and alone.

      They deserve a tougher sentence.

  6. I believe anyone can raise a query around an unduly lenient sentence. This seems like one that should be reviewed as they’ll be out in 2-3 years. Hopefully they’ll be separated too so they can’t take comfort from being together while they serve their time. I don’t think the sentence reflects the gravity, scale and premeditation of the crimes committed. Let alone abusing their position of trust in society as health professionals. Carol Bowes’ devastating comment above reflects the true impact. I’m so sorry for you Carol – My mum is terminally ill and I would be horrified if this happened to her. I can see how the trauma of the incident would have sped up her decline. Very sad. The thought of bereaved families also having these fraudsters stealing from them at their time of grief is unthinkably cruel.

  7. Keep clapping for the NHS. Once again it shows how unfit for purpose the NHS is-that these two were able to access these records with no need for them to give a reason as to why they were accessing the records of said patients. Plus to be able to steal equipment & drugs from ambulances & apparently hospitals for three years-without any system in place to stop them. How many more of these are out there?

  8. I work for the NHS,and I have seen,that if you know what you are doing,you can get away with loads. I have seen it all,theft,neglect,abuse,etc. It’s not easy to monitor thousands of staff. And if you are a paramedic,it is all too easy to get hold of drugs,patients records,etc,as you are in a position of trust. The staff I know,are relentlessly working hard,and I would trust them with my life. However,it’s this tiny percentage of low life scum,that give everyone in the service a bad reputation. 5 years is not long enough. Double it at least. Dirty scum.
    Rant over.

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