Cleethorpes mum faces jail over £17,000 nursery theft
A CLEETHORPES woman has been warned she faces jail after being convicted of stealing more than £17,000 from a Grimsby nursery.
Grimsby Crown Court heard Kelly Marley, 31, of Nishe Mews, Taylors Avenue, had consistently denied two counts of stealing £17,616.50 in payments made by parents of children attending the Grimsby Institute-run Little Stars nursery.
Marley, who has an 18-month-old son, openly wept as the jury delivered their verdict and Recorder Felicity Davies told her it was only an "act of mercy" that she had not been immediately jailed.
Bernard Gateshill, prosecuting, said the money had been stolen in two different ways, but on each occasion Marley – who was then deputy manager – had been at work and had taken some part in the day's banking.
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He explained that when parents paid they would be issued with a receipt, then the payment would be logged into the child's record card – also known as an A to Z file – and a daily cash book.
The entries in the cash book would then be added up between 3pm and 5pm each day and a nursery banking sheet prepared to be sent to the Institute finance office with the money.
Mr Gateshill said the thefts had come to light on Monday, October 18, 2010, when the nursery's then-manager Tracy Bennett was finalising the banking, but was unable to get the totals to tally.
She checked the receipts issued for that day and discovered that three signed by Marley – two for £57 and a third for £80 – had not been entered into the daily cash book. There was also no sign of the money, which had all been paid in cash.
After informing Colin Bagley, the then-director of student services at the Institute, the pair went back through the daily cash book, checking it against the receipts issued for each day.
On discovering more money appeared to be missing, the police were called and Marley was subsequently arrested and dismissed.
After seizing the nursery's records, Humberside Police officer DC Susan Shepherd – who led the investigation – found further discrepancies, which revealed a total of £13,686.50 had been stolen on 83 days between June 25, 2006, and October 18, 2010.
In the course of the investigation, DC Shepherd also found that on 39 occasions in the same period, the totals on the nursery banking sheet had been wrongly added up – with the final totals banked up to £100 less than the amount actually taken.
This time the total unaccounted for was £3,930 and again, all the sheets were signed by Marley.
For Marley, Andrew Bailey read numerous character references from her family, friends and colleagues, including her current employer, who said she had been marked out for promotion.
She said she had taken her on in full knowledge of the charges she faced, giving her access to large amounts of cash and high value goods without issue and that Marley was a "valuable" and "highly trusted" member of the team.
It was also not disputed that the nursery's banking procedure was "lax" – often with different members of staff involved at all four stages of the procedure.
The court also heard security was almost non-existent, with the door to the office left open and the money kept in a brown envelope in an unlocked filing cabinet that could be accessed by staff and parents.
Marley claimed that just because she had signed the paperwork, it did not follow that she had even had sight of the cash, adding that during busy periods, she would sign receipts and other members of staff would physically take the payments.
She added the end-of-day banking was "often" done by more than one person, with one counting the money and shouting out the totals and another – who would sign the form – writing down the figures without first checking they were correct.
However, the jury rejected her assertion that she would not sign to say she had taken money from a parent and then steal it, knowing she had incriminated herself, and that whoever was really responsible for the thefts had "set her up".
Recorder Davies told her these were "serious offences" and that it was only her previous unblemished character that had prevented her from being immediately jailed. She will be sentenced early next year.