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Plymouth vet manager who stole £290,000 jailed for two years

By NeilShaw  |  Posted: June 29, 2012

Della Barbour

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A TRUSTED office manager at a Plymouth veterinary firm drove it to the brink of ruin by stealing £290,000, a court heard.

Della Barbour worked for the Elm Veterinary Group for years, and had total control of the financial records and banking the takings.

But she betrayed her employers and colleagues, who regarded her as their friend, blowing the fortune she stole on an extravagant lifestyle.

Prosecutor Jason Beal told Plymouth Crown Court that Barbour had worked for many years for one of the firms, which amalgamated in 2005, and was kept on by directors John Parkinson and Richard Moar.

Mr Beal said: "They trusted her implicitly and had no reason to doubt her ability or integrity."

He said the two surgeries, in Milehouse and Plymstock, were very busy but profits were low.

The firm was forced into cost-cutting measures including a wage freeze, not replacing staff who left and restricting stock purchases.

No-one realised that Barbour was taking the money from the till, paying in smaller amounts at NatWest and pocketing the rest.

She was asked to record the daily, weekly and monthly takings in a book, but put in fake figures to cover her thefts, also inputting wrong data into the firm's Sage book-keeping system to fool the accountants.

Other colleagues started to become suspicious, reporting that she was buying expensive clothing, haircuts and gifts for her children, constantly carrying lots of cash and "spending like there was no tomorrow". Mr Beal said the firm held meetings at the end of 2010 to discuss ways of managing its financial state, with redundancies considered.

But when the partners were told of colleagues' suspicions, one of them compared the till receipts with the money Barbour had paid into the bank.

He found thousands of pounds had gone missing every month.

Police were informed, and discovered that over a five-year period, Barbour had paid £125,000 cash into her Santander account and spent £100,000 on private education for her four children.

Barbour was arrested in 2011, admitting theft but lying about the amount taken and when the thefts had started.

It was discovered that in July 2010, Barbour received £33,000 as a divorce settlement, spent £17,000 on school fees and credit card bills and blew the rest in a month, including a £2,000 shopping spree in London, with visits to Harrods and Vidal Sassoon.

She then carried on stealing.

The firm is being charged £48,000 VAT on money it received but which was stolen by Barbour.

Richard Maitland, for Barbour, said she had "descended into a vortex of theft" and wished to apologise publicly.

She had been treated for depression since 2002 and her goal when her marriage broke up in early 2006 was to look after her children, he said.

Her family had now been split up.

She had saved a huge amount of public money by not going to trial or disputing the police figures, he said.

Judge Francis Gilbert QC told Barbour she had been paid a "generous" salary of £23,000, but stole around £50,000 a year to spend on her family and extravagant living.

"You did very serious harm to your employers and fellow employees," he said.

"You risked the jobs of others and caused redundancies.

"This was a very, very serious breach of trust on a very substantial scale."

He jailed Barbour, aged 51 and of Rolston Close, Tamerton Foliot, for a total of 32 months for theft and false accounting, both of which she admitted.

He ordered her to pay a token £5 compensation as she had no assets, saying that if any money came to light, the amount could be revisited.

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  • philofbudo  |  June 29 2012, 2:03PM

    Nikgee - agree with you apart from your last point. It's very unlikely that a business this size would be legally required to undergo an audit. Yes, no doubt someone prepares accounts for them, but these will be produced based on the records provided, which it seems were falsified by this woman. Accounts production is a very different thing to auditing! I work for an accountancy firm, and we are careful to stress to non-audit clients that we are relying on their records and we should not be expected to pick up on theft, fraud or negligence based upon the level of work (and fee) that has been agreed with them. Even if an accountant does have suspicions, he will only be looking at the books once a year. This theft started in the summer of 2010 and she was arrested in 2011, so the accountant may not even have seen the records between the offences starting and her being arrested.

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  • Nikgee  |  June 29 2012, 1:22PM

    I wish someone would give me £290,000 and only let me only pay back £5. But to steal money (in the form of pay rises) from the other employees, which is what she effectively did is lower than low. And this is not justice it is a joke! Surely this should been spotted when the company was audited.

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  • greennose  |  June 29 2012, 12:58PM

    I would have her 'neutered' as well!!! Put one of those 'Lampshades' round her neck too!

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  • kym1960  |  June 29 2012, 12:56PM

    i am glad about this they killed my dog and i lost 70.000 pound and my dog they talk about karma

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  • atwa32  |  June 29 2012, 11:23AM

    re @ whinger, see what you mean but it doesnt mean just because her children were lavished that they deserve to pay for what their mum did,theres no knowing if they were aware of her crime and that their luxury was a result of something she did wrong,so even though they had a priveledged life style isnt fair on them to suffer as a result of her actions, neither is it fair for all the staff and families at the vets x, sadly one persons actions will have a knock on effect on all involved from both sides of the situation

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  • whinger7643  |  June 29 2012, 9:53AM

    Re atwa32, I cannot agree, her children have been pampered at the cost of the children of the vets and their employees children, they have suffered a pay freeze and drop in income due to this greedy leech.

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  • trudie2010  |  June 29 2012, 9:50AM

    All that stolen money and she never considered cosmetic surgery!!

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  • JMonners  |  June 29 2012, 9:46AM

    290k? Didnt they notice? As for the punishment well the money's gone somewhere hasnt it make her pay back from any income she receives in the future

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  • philofbudo  |  June 29 2012, 9:40AM

    The sentence does seem lenient for crimes like this. Yes, the employer was slow to react, but she had been working there for a long time before any of this started, so you can see why they wouldn't have considered this possibility. She was in a position of trust and horribly abused that trust. Surely she must have some assets that could be sold to start paying the debt off? Once she is released there should also be an attachment order on any future earnings, pensions etc.

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  • atwa32  |  June 29 2012, 9:29AM

    A very greedy woman indeed, if she has asserts I hope they are sold to compensate and pay her due,s . Regardless of lax attention on the bets part doesn't mean he deserved to be stolen from or ripped off, I would imagine if the woman has assets but also children then no judge would force sale of a family home that the children reside in though as the children would suffer as a result of their mothers actions and don't think any of us would want to see that happen x a stiffer sentence should definitely have been awarded though. No wonder so many people lose faith at times with the judicial system.

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