Shame of mum who stole £68k

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18 Jul 2012

Miss Todd said: "She admitted taking the money but could not remember how many times. It was to pay for debts and help with finances, but the temptationA TRUSTED employee stole almost £68,000 from a family-run hotel and squandered the lot, a court has heard.

Mother-of-two Charlotte Owen first took enough cash to pay the mortgage on her Sittingbourne home, but after finding how easy it was she became more daring.

During the three-year spree, she splashed out on two horses, expensive dogs, a Land Rover
Freelander car, hotels for her and her husband in London at Christmas and holidays.

Now, 29-year-old Owen, of Palmerston Walk, Sittingbourne, has been jailed for 18 months after admitting theft.

Maidstone Crown Court heard the gross breach of trust at Hempstead House Hotel and Spa in London Road, Bapchild, had left owner Mandy Holdstock devastated.

She told in a statement how Owen had been a close family friend and her "betrayal" meant the hotel would take many years to recover the financial loss.

A HOTEL worker has been sent to prison for 18 months after stealing almost £68,000 from Bap-child's Hempstead House Hotel.

Prosecutor Bridget Todd told Maidstone Crown Court how Charlotte Owen's duties included banking funds from various departments of the hotel.

Alarm bells rang in December last year when a £1,700 deposit for a wedding reception went missing from the safe. It could not be found and the police were called in to investigate.

That evening Owen went to owner Mandy Holdstock's private quarters and confessed.
She at first claimed it was the first time she had taken money but then admitted she could have had around £50,000.

Police discovered amounts paid into Owen's building society account between 2008 and 2011 totalled almost £66,000.

Her home was searched and £1,050 was found on top of a wardrobe, along with expensive equipment.

Miss Todd said: "She admitted taking the money but could not remember how many times. It was to pay for debts and help with finances, but the temptation grew and she took money for no apparent reason."

Owen was paid £350 a month and her husband earned £750 a month as a driver for a textile recycling company.

She bought two horses for a total of £1,900 and three puppies, one costing £650. She declined to answer when asked if her husband knew what she was doing.

Judge David Caddick told Owen her employer expected honesty and loyalty, adding: "This was a whole string of offending over three years. It was persistent and not just a momentary lapse
giving into temptation."

Alice Dobbie, defending, said Owen had acted out of character, adding: "Fairly quickly it became a habit she could not break, because it was so easy." The mother of two children aged three and five had since obtained menial work as a cleaner and wanted to put things right.

Miss Dobbie said: "If she receives an immediate custodial sentence, her husband will give up his job and care for the children. They won't be able to make mortgage payments and
lose their house and become reliant on the state.

"She recognises she has no one to blame but herself for putting her family in that situation. She feels a deep sense of shame."

Miss Dobbie said the money stolen had all gone. The horses had been sold for £600 and the "smartish" Freelander car had been replaced by a Ford Focus.

Judge Caddick told Owen: "Plainly, the level of trust placed in you was high indeed. What is especially regrettable was the suspicion thrown onto those with whom you worked."

Accused "never showed remorse"

Speaking after the sentencing, Mrs Holdstock said she felt Owen's sentence was "very fair".

The 57-year-old said: "She has never shown any sufficient remorse to want to try to repay any of the money and that was put across strongly [by judge}, I did feel a sense of betrayal - she had worked at the hotel for four years.

"By the time she admitted the offences I knew she had committed them. I'd worked it out the day before. But when you trust people you put it to the back of your mind. You think you're thinking ill of someone you trust.

"What prompted the inquiry was an amount of money had gone missing over night from the safe and I had to find out what happened to that. The other amounts I didn't know about, but when you look back and think of the suspicions you didn't take any further, the pieces of the jigsaw start to fall into place."

Mrs Holdstock is hoping a compensation order will be made in November for Owen to repay some or all of the money, adding: "We feel that should happen."

"Nobody should be allowed to get away with any offences without making some sort of recompense."


by Keith Hunt and Hayley Robinson
Sittingbourne News Extra



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