Norma Marshall’s story of elder-abuse a warning to aging Canada

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

The story of Norma Marshall is chilling, especially as many Baby Boomers around us are starting to look into their own future as they age.

The 94-year-old Toronto resident was victimized by a crooked couple that insinuated themselves into the lonely woman's life, moved into her home and essentially robbed her blind.

But it's also a story about how a stranger's kindness and concern can rescue someone like Marshall from a nightmarish situation.

It all began four years ago when Marshall, whose closest living relative is a nephew in Montreal, hired a housekeeper to help keep her apartment tidy.

But the 32-year-old woman did more than clean, CityNews reported.

“The housekeeper became quickly involved in the woman’s daily activities, as well as gained access to her banking and finances,” said Det. Const. Valerie Dahan at a news conference Wednesday.

[ Related: Alberta elder abuse probe promised following charges, allegations ]

Then, earlier this year, the housekeeper told Marshall she and her family were moving back to Portugal and invited her to join them.

But instead of doing that, the woman showed up on Marshall's doorstep with her husband and their children. They all moved in, essentially confining Marshall to a small bedroom in the house.

They then proceeded to systematically plunder her bank account and property, police allege.

“The women’s possessions, including furniture, valuables and jewellery were sold without her knowledge,” Dahan said.

“It is further alleged that the woman was defrauded of a majority of her life savings, which at this time is believed to be approximately $25,000, and the housekeeper had no intention of emigrating with the woman."

Who knows how much worse things could have gotten had it not been for Firoz Jogiat, who delivers Marshall's medication from a local pharmacy.

He was making his weekly delivery when a stranger answered the door.

"When I asked the gentleman he said he was the family, but I've never seen Norma's family in the last 10 years," Jogiat told the news conference, according to CBC News.

On his next delivery, Jogiat insisted on seeing Marshall in person.

“They took me to this small room, where Norma was confined to the bed," he said, according to CityNews. "And I asked a few questions to Norma why she was not taking her medication regularly, but she didn’t look at me.

"She was just scared, so I thought something was wrong."

Jogiat reported what he'd seen to pharmacist Celina Chan-Ying, who called police, CBC News said.

Police arrested Vera Nunes, 32, and Luis Serpa Da Conceicao Santos, 38, who face two counts of mischief under $5,000 and one count of mischief, interfering with property, CP24 reported.

[ Related: Family of elder-abuse victim seeks justice ]

Police believe there may be other victims and have appealed to the public for information.

As for Marshall, she's grateful Jogiat and Chan-Ying went out of their way to see to her safety.

The loss of her money and furniture was one thing, she said but, "what it does to you is emotionally worse. You don't lead a lot of money when you get old. You need people around you."

Patricia Fleischmann, Toronto police vulnerable-persons coordinator, said such elder abuse is under-reported.

“Seniors are particularly susceptible to elder abuse and frauds, and regrettably, there is a great reluctance to disclose these types of incidents," she said, according to CityNews.

Estimates put the level of elder abuse between two and 10 per cent, said Fleischmann, but police believe the numbers are much higher.