Woman tried to burn her sister alive to cover up theft from family
A mother of two has been branded "evil" by a judge, who jailed her for 25 years for the attempted murder of her sister who she tried to burn alive in a "ruthless and breathtaking" bid to cover up the theft of nearly £140,000 from her family.
Cathy Bartlett, 30, was convicted at Winchester Crown Court following a four-week trial which heard that she passed herself off as a successful businesswoman while committing fraud against her sister Rachael to fund her luxury lifestyle.
The court heard that Bartlett, from Fawley, Hampshire, set fire to her mother's house in Bartley on April 7 to prevent the fraud she carried out while acting as financial adviser for Rachael, 34, from being discovered.
She even gave her sister sleeping tablets and alcohol on the night of the arson attack in a bid to prevent her from waking, the court heard.
A caravan where Rachael had previously been living was also burned down, killing her 14-year-old dog, Jade. The fire is also suspected by prosecutors to have been caused by her sister.
Judge Jane Miller QC sentenced Bartlett for attempted murder, 10 counts of fraud totalling £96,000 and one of theft of £43,000 from her father, which she described as "wholesale dishonesty".
She told the defendant: "Quite frankly you are evil. You accepted in your evidence your behaviour was cunning, calculating and devious."
She added: "You were completely ruthless, you took as much as you possibly could from your sister and father."
The court has heard that the parents of the defendant and her sister had cut off ties with Rachael as they blamed her for supporting the prosecution of Bartlett.
Judge Miller said: "I feel very sorry for your parents in their awful situation. They have been supporting the wrong daughter, it's Rachael that deserves their compassion and not you.
"I hope they will regret their behaviour towards Rachael and she has the generosity to forgive them."
In a victim impact statement read to the court, Rachael described how her sister's actions had left her suffering post traumatic stress disorder and "ripped" their family apart.
She said: "The first two words that come to mind are heartbroken and devastated.
"Cathy was not only my sister but my best friend, someone I trusted and relied on. What she has done has ripped our family apart and has had a huge effect on all of us.
"I thought I trusted her and to find out our relationship was based on lies is devastating. The fact that she was then prepared to kill me to cover up her actions is so disturbing I still haven't been able to come to terms with it."
Describing the effect of her sister's actions, she added: "This has resulted in terrible nightmares, trouble sleeping and panic attacks."
Rachael described how their father refused to make a complaint against her sister for stealing from him and said she felt their parents blamed her by supporting the prosecution.
She said that she now had no contact with her parents and added: "I know none of this is my fault but I still find myself isolated.
"I love my sister and I always thought she loved me back. All of this has come as a great shock to me, I feel the sheer magnitude of the effect on me cannot be put into words.
"I think Cathy needs help and I hope she gets the help she needs."
Kate Lewis, senior prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Wessex, said that Bartlett was living a "fantasy of grandeur" by using money stolen to live a life of luxury including buying hospitality football tickets and buying expensive gifts.
She said: "Cathy Bartlett's greed and her fantasy of grandeur pushed her to coldly plan the murder of her own sister to prevent her being exposed for what she really was, a fraud and a thief.
"She took extreme and unimaginable measures to hide the extent of her dishonesty towards her sister by trying to kill her."
The trial was told that Rachael offered her sister the job of financial manager at the company she had set up in 2014 but the defendant went on to steal more than £100,000 from both her sister and her father.
Miss Lewis said: "She created a fantasy in which she played the role of a businesswoman with a lot of money and contacts. She was maintaining the illusion by buying people expensive gifts and spent about £20,000 on hospitality Southampton Football Club tickets that she then gave away with the aim of buying friends."