Melissa with her parents Terence and Elizabeth Fordham

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An elderly couple have told of how they forgave the daughter jailed for stealing £130,000 from them.

Terence and Elizabeth Fordham were on a dream road trip in Europe when Melissa, 36, frittered their cash away.

She got three years and her crime left them “in misery” as debt collectors hounded them.

But they say Melissa is now a “different person entirely”.

Terence, 83, said: “She has grown in stature, she’s much more confident. She’s happy.

“We have forgiven her. She is our flesh and blood.

“She didn’t kill anybody, she just got us wound up.”

Melissa, now a teacher, said: “I wanted to tell them I was sorry. I wanted to try and repair what I’ve done. I’m just thankful they’re back in my life. They have been a rock.”

Melissa was left in charge of her parent's finances when they bought a motorhome to tour Europe
(Image: John McLellan)

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Terence and Elizabeth, 70, sold their house in 2006 to buy a motorhome and tour Europe. They left Melissa in charge of their finances so she could pay off any bills and debts.

But four years later, they learned she had maxed out five credit cards in their names and raided a savings account.

Melissa said: “You know how drug users take stuff to get that high? For me, spending that money and having that nice, shiny object was the same. There was obviously something missing in my life.”

Terence, living with Elizabeth in their motorhome in Willingham, Cambs, said: “The anxiety she caused was hard. You have debt collectors demanding [money] you don’t have.”

In 2017, Melissa wept as she was jailed after admitting fraud, theft and obtaining property by deception.

But she was freed a year later and her parents said they had noticed a “beautiful” growth in character during a jail visit. Melissa said: “People have horror stories about prison but for me it was the best thing.”

But Melissa, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said not all of her family have forgiven her. She said: “In terms of processing it, it’s just been the three of us as the rest of the family has cut ties. But for the first time in a long time, I feel happy.”

Terence added: “They can’t seem to accept what she’s done, where she’s been and how she’s come out the other side."