A TEENAGER who stole thousands of pounds from his elderly great grandparents to fund his online gambling habit has been jailed.

Kieran Reece Lackenby, 18, was sentenced to two years in prison for what a judge described as ‘shocking’ and ‘shameful’ offences that left his relatives, who are in their 90s, broken hearted.

Prosecutor Sadie Rizzo told the court that Lackenby had admitted two offences of theft and a charge of burglary, with the offending beginning when the defendant went to live with his great grandparents at their Weymouth home in September last year.

He said in October it was discovered he had been using his great grandfather’s card for online gambling games, with transactions totalling nearly £2,000.

Lackenby admitted to what he had done and his great grandparents forgave him but the following month his great grandmother discovered her card had been taken and when she contacted her bank found online transactions had taken place totalling over £900.

The card had also been used to withdraw £300 in cash and £81.76 had been spent at various establishments.

The matter was reported to the police and Lackenby was interviewed and made admissions but again he was forgiven by his great grandparents after he offered to help around the house by way of recompense.

However, it later emerged that between December 9 and December 17 Lackenby had repeatedly taken his great grandmother’s card from her purse in the early hours and gone out to withdraw cash, with the withdrawals totalling £1,600.

The matter was again referred to the police but Lackenby failed to attend for a non custodial interview.

His great grandfather said about the offences: “I feel sick to my stomach, he had betrayed us completely.

“It breaks my heart he could do this to us.”

Lackenby, of Cromwell Road, Weymouth, eventually surrendered himself to police on January 3 this year but while on bail for the original offences of theft he broke into his grandparents house on the night of January 12 and stole his great grandmother’s card again before going to a cash point and withdrawing £200.

Christopher Gair, mitigating, said his client – who had no previous convictions – had turned to gaming machines at a young age and was kicked out of his family home as a result of his habit.

He said: “Kieran Lackenby is an immature 18-year-old man who has an illness of the 21st century and that illness is an addiction to these gaming sites.”

Judge Roger Jarvis told the defendant: “It really is shocking to hear how it is that your great grandparents, both in their 90s, elderly and vulnerable, forgave you and you abused their trust again and again.”

‘An increasing problem’

FIGURES released by gambling advice service GamCare show that online gambling is becoming an increasing problem for younger people.

Last year the service revealed the number of 18 to 35-year-olds contacting its advice service had risen for a third year in a row, with more than 60 per cent of calls coming from that age group.

A total of 8.813 people contacted the charity over the 12 months, with the charity saying smartphone and online betting had played a major part in the rise of young people developing gambling problems.

Anyone who needs advice on gambling issues can visit gamcare.org.uk or call the helpline on 0808 8020 133.

GamCare has also launched a website, bigdeal.org.uk, which is specifically designed to educate young people aged between 12 and 18 about the risks of gambling and offer advice and support.