Dinner lady who stole £37k pays money back

Liverpool Crown Court
Liverpool Crown Court

Proceeds of crime proceedings against a former school kitchen supervisor who stole at least £37,000 in canteen takings have been dropped .

The court order was made after a judge heard she and her husband ran into financial problems.

Elizabeth Heaton was kitchen supervisor at Rosebridge High School, Wigan, where she had worked for 21 years. She was employed by Metrofresh, a department within the borough council whose services include catering.

The 45-year-old was sentenced to ten months imprisonment suspended for two years in February and ordered to carry out 240 hours unpaid work after she had admitted theft.

Judge Robert Trevor-Jones suspended the sentence after hearing that she intended to repay the money from her pension fund and has no previous convictions.

He said he accepted that the money had not been used to fund an extravagant lifestyle but to stem debts and liabilities she and your husband had following the collapse of his business.

Heaton, of Chatham Street, Leigh, had pleaded guilty to theft between July 1, 2011 and February 27, 2014.

A proceeds of crime hearing was scheduled so that any assets could be seized to repay the £37,000 but Nicholas Walker, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court the money has already been paid so the hearing was unnecessary.

Heaton kitchen supervisor at Rose Bridge High School, Ince, where she had worked for 21 years. She was employed by MetroFresh, a department within the borough council whose services include catering.

Sentencing her, Judge Robert Trevor-Jones said: “At the very least you stole in excess of £37,000 from your employer in the clearest breach of trust.

“Over many months you were dishonestly failing to bank the money concerned and failing to provide the necessary paperwork and were squirrelling the money away.”

Heaton delayed banking the money paid into machines by the students to load the cards with credit and also e-forms recording the amounts sent for banking and did not end in the forms at the same time as the banking which allowed her to hide the true amount being received by the school.

He said that the true value of the money taken would probably never be known and could be significantly higher than £37,000.

Amos Waldman, defending, said that she had been too embarrassed to discuss her debts and seek professional help.

After her husband’s business collapsed they lost their home and owed more money.

She took out a loan at an “extortionate” rate of interest and matters spiralled out of control. She had hoped to get money from her husband’s pension fund but the investment collapsed and so it did not materialise.

Heaton is not the only Wigan criminal to be hit with a proceeds of crime order.

Last month, police seized more than £95,000 back from two convicted Wigan drug dealers.

In January last year Anthony Lynch and Karen Traynor were jailed for various drugs offences and last month a proceeds of crime hearing at Liverpool Crown Court told the pair to pay back more than £95,300.

Lynch, 55, from Newtown was sentenced to eight years and three months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and the production and supply of cannabis. He was ordered to repay £70,046.46 or face a further nine months in prison.

Investigators made enquiries into Lynch’s financial affairs and found that he had a pension in Malta valued to be worth around £28,500 and an apartment in Bulgaria worth approximately £19,500.