A former bookkeeper has been jailed for pocketing £68,000 of his dead mother's benefits, including her winter fuel allowance and state pension.

Brian Dixon, 65, was living in a house now worth almost £700,000 in Dukes Avenue, New Malden, as he was taking the money.

He kept quiet about the fact his mother, Joanna, had died in 2004, and used his power of attorney over her bank account to pay off debts including his mortgage.

Dixon was finally caught in 2011 and last December admitted dishonestly taking £68,035.84.

A judge told him this afternoon he had committed “a very determined fraud” on the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) over several years.

Judge Susan Tapping said Dixon siphoned off “a very large sum of money the public funds can hardly afford” – some of it while earning £50,000 a year at an advertising agency.

Defending, Kathleen Mulhern told Kingston Crown Court that Dixon hoped to pay back what he owed after the sale of his house, worth some £696,000, in the near future.

She said: “He didn’t start taking the money immediately. It was when he found himself in a desperate situation.

“He tried to keep his family rooted where they were.”

Miss Mulhern said things “spiralled out of control” for Dixon, adding: “Once he started, he found himself in a position where he couldn’t make things right.”

She added: “He has, through his own doing, suffered. This has had a massive impact on him.

“He doesn't like to go outside. He doesn't like to be seen in the streets.”

She asked the judge to spare Dixon prison, saying he suffered from numerous health problems, including a blood disorder thought to be leukaemia.

But Judge Tapping handed him a six-month prison sentence saying: “These offences are so serious that only immediate custody is justified.”