A shopkeeper today told of her anger after a greedy worker who stole from her struggling business avoided court and was given a caution.
Sarah Thompson, of King Street, Lostock Hall, near Preston, was caught committing a string of thefts on CCTV cameras at Albrighton Stores on Albrighton Road over a month long period after a probe was launched into anomalies at the shop.
Shop owner Lora Harwood, from Frenchwood, Preston, told the Evening Post she was “sickened” when she discovered her employee of seven years helping herself to cash, cigarettes, sweets, crisps, curries, and sandwiches.
She started to investigate when she found she was struggling to pay her bills because her takings were down,
In just one half hour period captured on CCTV Thompson was seen:
• stealing 29p sweets and eating them at the till
• handing a relative a £20 note from the till
• taking her wages - plus a £10 note, two £5 notes and a fistful of pound coins - from the till at the end of her shift
• grabbing a pack of 10 Lambert and Butler cigarettes
• taking a packet of cigarette papers
Despite the footage and a signed letter of dismissal the 49-year-old, who had no previous convictions, avoided court and was given a police caution for theft.
She has since got a job at Preston Bus Station.
Tearful Lora, 30, a single mum, said she had been forced to cut other staff’s hours due to the impact on her business.
She said: “I feel such a fool. I thought she was my friend. My children used to run to her when they came in the shop.
“The worst thing is she knew I was struggling to pay my bills. She watched me cry when I couldn’t afford to get my children Christmas presents.
“Eventually I decided to review the footage, but I did not want to believe it.
“I watched her drop her handbag to the floor and scoop up cigarettes she had hidden under the counter.
“She would cook herself a curry for tea. In one shot after closing she takes £10 from the till.
“The police thought she would go to court, but because she admitted what she had done and had no previous convictions she got a caution.
“I’m a single mum with two children aged one and four and the shop is our life. I feel totally betrayed.
“The problems started when I took time off to have my baby. When I came back there was virtually no stock, and the takings were down 30%. I couldn’t understand it, but I trusted her so I didn’t suspect her.
“I could only prove six thefts but I don’t know how long she’s been doing it. It’s broken my heart.
“I’m embarrassed because a lot of people know how much I did for her, I feel like a mug.
“What makes it more upsetting is some customers are coming in saying she has been set up - I want to show that it is not the case.”
A spokesperson for Lancashire Police said: “We can confirm that a 49-year-old woman was given a caution for theft by employee.
“Given all the circumstances this was deemed to be the most appropriate course of action.”