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Daily Mail
Pensioner, 88, whose signature appeared on her neighbour’s will that an NHS psychiatrist ‘forged as part of a £1.3million fraud’ claims she thought it was a letter about council tax
Zholia Alemi, 55, accused of exploiting her role as Gillian Belham’s psychiatrist
Alemi allegedly re-wrote Belham’s will to cash in on her Lake District estate
She is on trial in Carlisle accused of trying to strip Mrs Belham, 87, of everything
Court heard Joan Grisdale signed the will on Dr Alemi’s orders but she denied it
By Lara Keay
October 15, 2018

Psychiatrist Zholia Alemi

Psychiatrist Zholia Alemi

An NHS psychiatrist got an elderly woman to sign the will of her neighbour so she could ‘strip her of everything she had’, a court heard.

Dr Zholia Alemi, 55, has gone on trial accused of befriending former Bank of England employee Gillian Belham, 87, and trying to defraud her out of £1.3million.

Alemi ‘exploited her role as a psychiatrist’ to gain Mrs Belham’s trust before rewriting her will to appoint herself as the main beneficiary, a jury at Carlisle Crown Court was told.

Under the will, Alemi allegedly stood to inherit Mrs Belhem’s £300,000 Lake District bungalow, while proceeds from the sale of the pensioner’s main home near Cockermouth, Cumbria, would go to Alemi’s two grandchildren.

The court was told Alemi asked Mrs Belham’s neighbour Joan Grisdale to sign the will, disguising it as a ‘blank piece of paper’.

The 88-year-old told the hearing that Alemi said that the signatures were needed for a letter to the local authority about council tax.

But the prosecution claims it was so she could take control of her assets. Alemi denies two thefts, and three counts of fraud.

Giving evidence, Mrs Grisdale, who lived next to Mrs Belham’s bungalow, gave a detailed account of her contact with Alemi, who had arrived at the property with the widow.

Referring to Alemi, Mrs Grisdale said: ‘She introduced herself as a friend of Mrs Belham.

‘As as I recall, it was the doctor lady who said she couldn’t befriend Mrs Belham if she was her patient.’

Mrs Grisdale said Alemi told her Mrs Belham had lost the key to her bungalow near Cockermouth.

The pensioner had had a spare key to the property – used when she collected the widow’s mail for her – so she offered to have a copy cut, which she gave to the defendant.

Later, said Mrs Grisdale, Alemi expressed concern that Mrs Belham was ‘overspending’ and might not have sufficient money.

She offered to have the pensioner’s mail sent to the bungalow so she could monitor it, she said.

Mrs Grisdale described how the defendant had asked her and another neighbour to sign a piece of paper, saying it was part of a letter about Council Tax liability for the Keswick bungalow.

The court was told Alemi (pictured outside court) asked Mrs Belham’s neighbour Joan Grisdale to sign the will, disguising it as a ‘blank piece of paper’
The court was told Alemi (pictured outside court) asked Mrs Belham’s neighbour Joan Grisdale to sign the will, disguising it as a ‘blank piece of paper’

Describing the paper Mrs Grisdale said: ‘It was a blank piece of paper. I was under the impression that it would be attached to a letter to Allerdale Council.’

Mr McEntee showed Mrs Grisdale a copy of Mrs Belham’s will, bearing her signature.

He asked: ‘Have you signed this document?’

To which Mrs Grisdale replied: ‘I have not signed this document.’

Drawing her attention to a second signature in her name elsewhere on the will, Mr McEntee asked if she signed that page.

She said: ‘It doesn’t look like my signature exactly. I never signed any document like this.’

Challenged by defence QC Dafydd Enoch about why she had apparently signed a blank sheet of paper, Mrs Grisdale said: ‘I’m a very trusting person. I didn’t suspect anyone.

‘I did it in good faith, hoping it would help Mrs Belham out of what I took to be some sort of dispute over council tax.’

Mrs Grisdale also rejected the defences claim that she simply forgot that she had signed the will.

The court heard previously that the psychiatrist first met Mrs Belham in February 2016 when she visited her home to assess whether the vulnerable widow had memory problems and needed social care.

Following the visit she said the pensioner did not require any treatment for dementia and discharged her from the care of a ‘Memory Matters’ service run by Workington hospital, where the doctor was a locum psychiatrist.

But within three months, the psychiatrist is alleged to have ‘entirely written out’ Mrs Belham’s own family from her will and appointed herself executor of her £1.3 million estate.

Alemi, who denies all charges against her, is also accused of stealing 33 watches and bank cards belonging to Mrs Belham.

The trial continues.