A deceased Oldham man whose grandson looted £50,000 from his Halifax bank account has had to fight a legal battle from ‘beyond the grave’ – to get it all back.
John Bowden, 73, was in hospital when he discovered Michael Howes had set up an online banking facility to secretly plunder the OAP’s savings over a two year period.
On his deathbed, the heartbroken retired engineer urged his family to get the money back from the bank before he passed away from organ failure.
But when relatives urged the Halifax bank – whose slogan is ‘giving you extra’ – to refund the money into Mr Bowden’s estate due it to be withdrawn illegally, staff refused because the account holder was now ‘deceased’.
The family had to fight for up to four months before the bank agreed to pay up.
Jobless Howes, 25, who was taking up to £2,000 a time from his grandfather’s account to fund a lavish lifestyle, is now serving 21 months after pleading guilty to theft.
In a bizarre twist, Howes is now set to inherit a share of his grandfather’s will as the old man was too ill to change it before his death.
Today as Halifax apologised, Mr Bowden’s son John jnr, 40, from Oldham, Greater Manchester said: “I can’t believe nobody at the bank picked up on the fact that a 73-year-old man had suddenly set up online banking and was spending so much money in such a short space of time.
”No-one told him something appeared to be wrong with his account until it was too late. The bank should of realised something was amiss and investigated sooner. When I first realised how much money Michael had stolen I was absolutely blown away.
John jnr said he believed the bank would rectify the situation, and was stunned when they refused.
He said: ”When I went into my local Halifax with my dad’s death certificate, I thought everything would be ok and that the money would be put back into my dad’s account.
”But the bank told me that because my dad wasn’t here to make a statement they wouldn’t be able to give the money back.
”I was shocked – it was bad enough being betrayed by a member for the family but it seemed we were being betrayed all over again by certain people in the bank. I would have thought the bank would have investigated sooner.
Despite facing an up-hill battle, John jnr said he was determined to take up the fight with the bank.
He said: “Everyone was telling me to give up. They all said the same ‘you can’t beat the banks, you can’t beat the banks.’ But I had promised my dad I would get the money back for him and there was no way that I was going to give up.”
The thefts emerged in July last year whilst Mr Bowden snr was in an induced coma after suffering two heart attacks. His son opened two letters addressed to his father confirming overdraft amounts on his bank account.
It was later discovered Howes, who was living with Mr Bowden snr at his home in Failsworth, had looted the account of £50,533 by setting up online banking and making transfers into his own personal account.
The ruthless thief squandered the cash on nights out, tattoos, gambling, designer clothes and a holiday to Turkey.
Mr Bowden snr was readmitted to hospital after complications over his heart surgery and died from organ failure the following October – a month before his grandson pleaded guilty to theft.
He was jailed in December.
Mr Bowden jnr, a roofer and Howes’ nephew said: “Once I had looked through the bank statements I contacted Halifax straightaway and they told me that if Michael was prosecuted and convicted we would get the money back.
Mr Bowden snr passed away October 15, but John jnr had to wait until Michael was jailed on the December 15 before he could legally do anything.
Despite this, the Oldham Halifax branch still insisted on several occasions they wouldn’t be able to pay out as his father and died.
He said: ”I couldn’t believe it. I had done everything they had asked and now they were telling me it wasn’t going to be. I called the bank ombudsman and they told me I had to lodge an official complaint and give Halifax eight weeks to investigate.
“For a whole week I called Halifax and wrote complaints to them on Facebook and Twitter. I was absolutely determined. The money was meant to be an inheritance for the family and we wanted to make sure that it went to the right people.
“I wasn’t bothered about the money because it’s not for me anyway. I was just set on getting the money back because I had promised my dad that I would. “
Eventually Halifax called him up and asked him to go in where they explained they had put the money back into the account. John jnr said he broke down into tears in the middle of the bank.
He said: “It had gone all the way up to the chief executive and the money was back in my dad’s account. It was such a relief but I would give it all back now to have my dad back. I don’t feel like I will ever be happy again because I have lost my dad.”
He has since taken up a new fight – trying to cut Michael out of his father’s will.
“One of the last things my dad said to me was to make sure Michael got nothing,” he added. “It broke his heart. Michael was the apple of my dad’s eye. My dad would have given him anything he wanted.
“At the very end my dad was too ill to change his will and we didn’t have the money to pay for the solicitor’s fees to get it changed, but I am now doing everything in my power to make sure that Michael gets nothing.”
Halifax have since apologised for not rectifying the situation sooner.
A spokesperson for Halifax said: “We are extremely sorry that Mr Bowden did not receive the level of service that we aim to provide. We could and should have provided him with more support while resolving this issue.
“In situations such as Mr Bowden’s, where an account holder has passed away, we are still able to investigate potentially fraudulent activity at the request of a recognised authority of the account, such as an executor.
“Since Mr Bowden has been able to provide the necessary documentation of his role as the executor of his father’s estate we have been able to take the necessary steps to undertake a thorough investigation.
“The outcome of this is that we have been able to refund the transactions that were identified as being fraudulent, which amounted to £51,583 including the associated interest and charges.”
Story via Cavendish Press.
Image courtesy of Halifax Bank via YouTube, with thanks.