Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Cleaner spared prison for £8,000 theft from widow

A CLEANER who was secretly filmed stealing thousands of pounds from a widow in Shiplake has been spared prison.

A CLEANER who was secretly filmed stealing thousands of pounds from a widow in Shiplake has been spared prison.

Helen Kupiec, 60, admitted taking £8,000 in cash from the home of her employer, Mary Jane Pugsley, last year.

Mrs Pugsley, 64, set up a hidden camera after money began disappearing from a locked drawer in her library.

At Oxford Crown Court on Thursday last week, Kupiec was sentenced to a year in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to repay her victim.

The court heard Kupiec had worked at Mrs Pugsley’s home for three years before the thefts.

She was one of four full-time cleaners at the property along with a head gardener, security guard, head of household and Mrs Pugsley’s personal assistant.

Last September, Mrs Pugsley returned from a trip abroad to find £4,000 was missing from an envelope in the drawer.

On another occasion, £2,000 disappeared from an envelope containing £2,600. Jonathan Stone, prosecuting, said Mrs Pugsley became suspicious and bought a surveillance camera disguised as an iPhone docking station.

She then went on a trip to London and when she returned she thought a further £1,000 was missing.

Mr Stone said Mrs Pugsley noticed that money seemed to disappear on Tuesdays, when Kupiec worked at the house.

She hid the motion-sensitive camera behind a desk in the library and put £2,000 inside an envelope labelled with the sum in the drawer.

When she returned later that day, £1,000 had gone and the figure on the envelope had been amended.

Armed with footage of Kupiec taking the money, Mrs Pugsley confronted her and gave her a chance to explain before she called the police.

Kupiec, a grandmother, of Hazel Road, Purley, admitted the theft.

She gave back the £1,000 and promised to pay back the rest. She told police she had found the key to the drawer and had used the money to pay off debts and buy food and presents.

Mr Stone said: “She said she had £28,000 in debts and was paying credit card bills to Lloyds and other companies.”

The cleaner said later that her son was a drug addict and she had used the money to help him.

Nadia Chabat, for Kupiec, said: “She was stealing to help her son and to keep the drug dealers off his back and away from her family.

“She is ashamed, she has [not only] let down herself but also Mrs Pugsley.”

Mr Recorder Patrick Vincent, presiding, told Kupiec she had abused her employer’s trust.

He said: “You must have sought out the key to this drawer, opened the drawer and planned to steal the money in the way you did.

“This will have been upsetting to Mrs Pugsley in a number of ways. There was the loss of the money but probably more importantly she will have felt abused in her own home, not in a physical way but by your breach of trust.” He ordered her to pay £7,250 compensation and £475 costs as well as carrying out 250 hours of community service.

At am earlier hearing, the court was told that Kupiec was selling her house to repay the debt.

In 2009, she was cautioned for stealing £500 from a previous employer. She was caught after the victim set up hidden cameras.

Mrs Pugsley was married to Robin Pugsley, the owner of construction firm Bison, until his sudden death from a heart attack some years ago.

The couple reportedly bought the Shiplake house when Mr Pugsley sold his stake in the firm about 25 years ago.

A friend said Mrs Pugsley had been “devastated” by the betrayal by one of her staff, adding: “She is very trusting and discreet and she is a people person.

“She didn’t really want to get the police involved. The worst thing about it all is, she told me, she probably would have given the cleaner the money if she had just asked for it.”


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