A former soldier stole almost half a million pounds from his dying father leaving his estate with less than 50p and depriving his relations of their inheritance, a court has heard.

David Bickel, 58, took £486,101.13 from his father Peter over a six-year period,  between an Alzheimer's diagnosis in 2015 until shortly before his death in 2021, aged 84.

Norwich Crown Court heard that by the time he died Mr Bickel Snr had just 48p left in his name, meaning 17 of his relations - including three grandchildren, nieces and nephews - missed out on inheritances that had been left to them in his will.Wymondham & Attleborough Mercury: Norwich Crown CourtNorwich Crown Court (Image: Peter Walsh, Newsquest)Danielle O'Donovan, prosecuting, said Bickel had held a "lasting power of attorney" for his father, whose health decline began in 2015 when he started "putting rubbish into the fridge rather than the bin".

She said Bickel "took advantage" of his father's "ill health and forgetfulness" by "helping himself to his money".

The fraud came to light in April 2021 when Bickel's father was about to be evicted from his care home because of unpaid fees of more than £85,000.

Wymondham & Attleborough Mercury: David BickelDavid Bickel (Image: Facebook)Miss O'Donovan said it was at this point Bickel "admitted he had sold his father's home and stolen all the money".

She said it was not a case where a gambling addiction or drink or drugs problem could account for where the money had gone.

Bickel, of Kingfisher Road, Attleborough, appeared in court on Wednesday after admitting theft and fraud between May 2015 and April 2021.

Jailing Bickel for four years, Judge Anthony Bate said he had displayed "egregious, sustained dishonesty".

Wymondham & Attleborough Mercury: Judge Anthony BateJudge Anthony Bate (Image: Newsquest)The judge said that Bickel had served his country with "distinction" as a soldier but "took advantage of your father's ill health and started taking his money".

Gavin Cowe, mitigating, said Bickel was previously a man of "exemplary" good character with a "long service record" in the forces.

He said there were "many positive things" to be said on behalf of Bickel who had "admitted these matters from the outset".

Mr Cowe said Bickel felt "shame and embarrassment" about the "enormity" of the figures taken from his father.