Shopping addict who stole 340,000 from her employers to fund sprees at LK Bennett and Joules jailed for two yearsNicola Saxelby duped employers into signing cheques made out to herSpending compulsion so bad that there were rooms full of unopened boxes

Andy Dolan


22:37 GMT, 14 January 2013



22:44 GMT, 14 January 2013

Shopaholic: Nicola Saxelby stole 340,000 from her employer to fund a shopping addiction and to buy her Siberian Husky, Troy

Shopaholic: Nicola Saxelby stole 340,000 from her employer to fund a shopping addiction and to buy her Siberian Husky, Troy

A book-keeper stole up to 340,000 from her employers over six years to pay for shopping sprees.

Nicola Saxelby duped brothers James and Paul Hawkins, who ran a farming business, into signing cheques made out to her and pocketed rent money from their tenants.

The mother of two spent the cash at LK Bennett, Laura Ashley, Joules, Barbour, Marks & Spencer, Principles and North Face, a court heard.

It is also thought she put some of the proceeds towards buying a Siberian husky called Troy – though this did not form part of the prosecution case against her.

Saxelby’s spending compulsion was so serious that ‘dozens and dozens’ of boxes of unopened goods were found at her home.

Andrew Wallace, prosecuting, said: ‘There were rooms with boxes piled high and labels still on clothing.

‘Tens of thousands of pounds of goods had never seen the outside of the box. They had just been bought and stored.’

Sentencing Saxelby yesterday, Judge Toby Hooper QC said she had displayed a strong ‘psychological compulsion to acquire goods you didn’t even want, let alone use’.

He said he had no option but to jail her for two years because she had breached her employers’ trust.

The court heard Saxelby, 49, who was on a salary of 14,500 a year, had a sideline as an eBay trader.

A charge relating to the use of her employer’s accounts to pay the postage costs of goods she sold online was ordered to lie on file.

Mr Wallace told the court she had free rein to manage the finances of the brothers’ farming business, JS and SA Hawkins in Withington, Herefordshire, an arable and dairy business that also supplied trees and plants to garden centres.

The prosecutor said a large number of
cheques were made out to cash during the five-and-a-half-year fraud. He
said financial records showed how within minutes of a cheque being
cashed, money was paid into her account.

‘How the bank never raised an eyebrow is a question that needs to be asked,’ he added.

The mother of two spent the cash at a range of shops

Nicola Saxelby from Ledbury smokes outside Hereford crown court shortly before being jailed for embezzlement from her former employers

The mother of two (pictured right, and left outside Hereford Crown Court) spent the cash at a range of shops

Hereford Crown Court heard some of the money was paid straight to Marks & Spencer and Laura Ashley to clear store card debts.

While Saxelby boasted on Facebook about her shopping expeditions, her employers were worrying about an overdraft that had shot up from 23,000 to 150,000.

They even sold off the dairy side of the business, believing it was losing them money.

James Hawkins finally realised Saxelby might be at fault when he became suspicious that her marriage break-up appeared not to have hit her finances. Mr Hawkins then discovered rent money was missing and called in an accountant. Saxelby, from Ledbury, Herefordshire, admitted two counts of theft and single counts of fraud and false accounting, between September 2005 and March 2011. Two further charges were ordered to lie on the file.

Adam Western, defending, said a psychologist had described her as a ‘compulsive buyer’.

Saxelby, who worked for the Hawkins family for 16 years, admitted the offences on the basis that the fraud amounted to no more than 289,770, although the prosecution believes the true figure to be 51,000 higher.

A friend of the Hawkins family said: ‘She was still driving around in a rubbish car and hadn’t paid off her debts or mortgage. But she was always in new clothes and did all her food shopping at Marks & Spencer.

‘She was buying pricey wine, expensive smoked salmon – everything. No one understood where she had got the money.

‘She would go around in a new pair of boots and say they were a bargain on eBay, but they were designer.’