Smear campaign claim



THE former Tweed City Commonwealth Bank manager accused of defrauding an elderly client of nearly $80,000 yesterday told the Lismore District Court he was the victim of a "smear campaign".

"The (detectives') approach was just slanted on the poor old ladies," the accused, Graham Higgins, told the court.

"It was a smear campaign and I was the target."

Higgins is accused of fraudulently handling a $78,303 cheque given to him in 2001 by elderly nursing home resident Doreen Loder, now deceased.

The day after receiving the cheque and issuing Mrs Loder with a receipt, Higgins instead authorised for the money to be split into eight bank cheques for $8600 each and more than $9000 in cash.

Under cross-examination, Higgins told Crown prosecutor Julia Baly that Mrs Loder had changed her mind about investing the money and sent an unknown person to the Tweed City Commonwealth Bank with hand-written instructions to "gift the money".

The court has heard the executors of Mrs Loder's estate only discovered the missing money when they found the receipt in her possessions.

Ms Baly suggested the only reason Higgins never recovered the receipt himself from Mrs Loder was that it would have alerted her to his intentions.

"That's ridiculous," Higgins said.

Higgins was also questioned on the names appearing on the $8600 bank cheques that were cashed under his authority.

The cheques were issued to payees identified by just an ini- tial and surname.

When asked about the fact these $8600 cheques started being cashed in the day after having been issued, Ms Baly asked Higgins: "Don't you think it was odd for Doreen Loder to change her mind, odd for every single person to want to cash in their cheques?'

"Yes, it probably is a little bit odd," Higgins agreed.

The trial continues today.



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