Gordon Beurskens trial: ‘Pensioner had health problems’

Livingston Sheriff Court

Livingston Sheriff Court

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A PENSIONER whose cash an ex-councillor allegedly embezzled suffered from mental health problems, a jury was told.

James McQue had delusions as a result of binge drinking and was treated for cognitive difficulties, Livingston Sheriff Court heard.

The Crown claims that it was while he was suffering these problems that he allegedly gave control of his family bank accounts to former West Lothian councillor Gordon Beurskens.

Beurskens, 51, denies two charges of embezzling nearly £80,000 from Mr McQue and his 83-year-old wife Nettie between 2006 and 2009 by repeatedly transferring money five of their bank accounts into and out of accounts held by him and his partner Sadie McMillan.

Beurskens was an independent Action to Save St John’s Hospital councillor for Whitburn and Blackburn, until he lost his seat in 2012.

The McQues’ family doctor Christophe Toellner gave evidence yesterday that Nettie McQue had brought her husband to his Whitburn surgery for examination in 2000.

He said she asked him for help after Mr McQue suffered delusions during a holiday in Cyprus in 2000, which resulted in him being given a CAT scan.

Following that episode, Dr Toellner said his patient began “behaving oddly” at home and “became increasingly unable to recollect what he was doing and why”.

The intermittent episodes became more frequent and Mr McQue very often didn’t know why he was in the surgery with his wife, the GP said.

“I asked him questions about what apparently he’d said or done. He increasingly was not able to give some kind of account for what his wife had just told me and he looked puzzled.”

He told the jury that some of Mr McQue’s behaviour could have been caused by withdrawal from his heavy binge drinking episodes.

In April 2005, he said Mr McQue was admitted to a psychiatric ward for elderly patients at St John’s Hospital in Livingston.

By June 2007, Mrs McQue was finding it difficult and exhausting to look after her husband at home because he believed he lived somewhere else and wanted to go out in his pyjamas.

In 2009, Mr McQue was formally admitted to a nursing home, aged 84.

Under cross-examination, Dr Toellner told how Mr McCue was comparatively lucid when he was alcohol free, but the boundaries between alcohol abuse and cognitive impairment gradually changed.

He said: “It became more apparent at the later stages when I though his conduct was probably more related to his cognitive impairment than his alcohol abuse.”

The trial continues.