A consultant psychiatrist sent by NHS bosses to assess an elderly widow in west Cumbria, took control of her finances so that she and her family could inherit the bulk of the pensioner’s £1.3m estate, a jury heard.

Dr Zholia Alemi, 55, denies three frauds and two thefts. Carlisle Crown Court heard how Alemi, employed as a locum consultant psychiatrist by the NHS in Workington, abused her trusted role so that she and her grandchildren could inherit the widow’s estate.

Gillian Belham, 84, owned her home in Bridekirk, Cockermouth; and also a bungalow at Chestnut Park, Keswick.

Francis McEntee, prosecuting, said the frauds came to light as police investigated a claim that Alemi had stolen 33 watches which had belonged to Mrs Belham’s late husband.

The pensioner first met the defendant in February, 2016, said the barrister.

At the time, Alemi worked for the Workington based NHS service Memory Matters. Concerned staff at Workington Community Hospital referred the pensioner to the service and Alemi was asked to assess Mrs Belham’s mental capacity.

The psychiatrist did this as she visited the widow at her home - but only four months later she had taken control of all of the pensioner’s finances, said Mr McEntee. This was to pave the way for the fraud, said the prosecutor.

Mr McEntee said: “By May 15, 2016, Mrs Belham’s will had been changed so as to appoint the defendant as the executor of her estate and to make her the principal beneficiary under the will.”

The redrafted will said that Alemi should inherit one of the pensioner’s two properties, the Keswick bungalow, and £300,000.

Her grandchildren would get the cash from the sale of her main home.

“Mrs Belham’s family had been entirely written out of this redrafted will,” said the barrister.

“And the bulk of her property had been bequeathed to a woman she knew only as ‘Julia’ and to two children whom she had never heard of.”

A conservative estimate of Mrs Belham’s financial worth was about £1.3m. “Had the defendant not been detected,” said Mr McEntee, “[upon Mrs Belham’s death] she and her family would have inherited the greater part of that sum.

“Mrs Belham has no children or close family members to challenge the will, and the defendant knew that.”

Mr McEntee told the jury: “You will see how the defendant swept into Gillian Belham’s life in February, 2016, pretending to be her friend, exploiting this elderly lady’s trusting nature in order to delve into her financial affairs.”

The lawyer outlined how the prosecution say the fraud was exposed. “Paradoxically,” he said, “it was an investigation into the comparatively trivial theft of a collection of watches that was to be the defendant’s undoing.”

After arresting Alemi over this allegation, the court heard, police searched Alemi’s home in Scaw Road, High Harrington, Workington. They found documents detailing the pensioner’s finances.

Police also examined Alemi’s laptop, and found draft versions of Mrs Belham’s revised will.

“The prosecution say the defendant exploited her role as a psychiatrist and the trust that her position engendered,” said the prosecutor, arguing that Alemi would meet any challenge by blaming the pensioner’s confusion.

When she was interviewed by police, Alemi claimed she had known Gillian Belham for several years, but the pensioner contradicted this. She said she had only known the psychiatrist for four or six months.

At an earlier hearing, Alemi told police she had the pensioner’s financial documents because she was trying to help her organise her affairs. The trial is expected to last two weeks.