How ‘perfect’ employee nearly left me bankrupt

Antonia Thornton of four oak pet supplies at Seamer, scarborough who was a victim of theft by a former employee
Antonia Thornton of four oak pet supplies at Seamer, scarborough who was a victim of theft by a former employee

A till-dipping cashier left her boss facing financial ruin by stealing thousands to fund her jet-set lifestyle.

Once considered a “perfect” employee, crook Joanne Hopkins was in fact pinching up to £350 a day from Seamer’s Four Oaks Pet Supplies for slap-up meals and holidays.

Owner Antonia Thornton has now revealed how she caught crafty Hopkins by beefing up CCTV, ending what she believes was years of thieving.

“She admitted claiming up to £8,000 but I think it could have been as much as £80,000 – I was left with next to nothing,” said the 45-year-old victim after Hopkins was spared jail.

Hired in 2010, the 41-year-old quickly won over her boss.

“She didn’t come with a reference as she claimed her last employer was an ex-catalogue place but all the locals liked her,” admitted Antonia.

“She was pleasant, chatty and the customers loved her – she was perfect for customer relations.”

But over time money went missing. Antonia was baffled, so the family forked out on a pricey new Epos sales system.

“I thought something didn’t add up but I never thought it was her,” said Antonia.

But even with the new system, the firm bled cash.

Antonia had to invest her own personal money to keep it afloat - and her staff in jobs - over Christmas.

“Joanne was blaming the system saying it wasn’t set up properly.”

But unbeknown to the family, York Crown Court heard, she was constantly grabbing handfuls of notes in numerous raids on the cash register to fund her lifestyle. “We were all struggling and she seemed to be living beyond her means,” said Antonia.

“She was driving a soft top car, going on holidays and eating out and buying all sorts of extravagant gifts.”

As her colleagues toiled, Hopkins even posted smirking pictures on Facebook of her bathing on exotic beaches for her workmates to see.

“She was rubbing our noses in it,” said Antonia.

With growing suspicion about her employee, she moved the cameras above the Malton Road store’s tills, catching canny Hopkins who thought’s she’d scouted the store.

But still unable to nail her, she upgraded to HD cameras, which revealed the shocking extent of her greed.

Over eight days she was filmed stealing hundreds of pounds daily. The police were called and Hopkins sacked.

At her York Crown Court sentencing hearing, prosecuting barrister Patrick Palmer said when Hopkins registered transactions on the till, she voided some of the purchased items and pocketed the money herself, leaving the company in a “financial mess”.

“It proved extremely difficult, and long and hard, to even begin to estimate what was taken,” he added.

Another hearing will establish how much Thornton has to pay back although all the stolen money has been blown.

While the exact figure is unknown, Judge Stephen Ashurst said married Hopkins, of Main Street, was “extremely fortunate” the CPS accepted her plea for stealing between £4-8,000.

In mitigation, Hopkins - previously convicted for stealing from another employer - blamed feeling under pressure, overworked and underpaid for her crimes.

But her ex-boss claims that’s a myth, hitting out at her punishment after Hopkins was handed a suspended six-month sentence. “We paid for her to take the kids to Florida, we trusted her that much - how’s that overworked? She stole so much she must have been Britain’s highest paid shop worker.”

And speaking about Hopkins, who has since found a new job, she added: “She just milked us, well and truly, and at one point we could have gone bust,” adding: “She should have been jailed.”