Missing Prestons cash 'was never found'

The Bolton News: Prestons of Bolton Prestons of Bolton

TENS of thousands of pounds allegedly stolen by a former employee of Prestons of Bolton have never been recovered, a court heard.

Christopher Kempster, who was a “trusted employee” at the jewellers, is standing trial accused of running three schemes whereby it is alleged he stole almost £30,000 from the company's cash for gold department and manipulated records to cover his tracks.

His defence lawyer Duncan Phillips told the court that the money has never been found, the defendant was never caught with it, there is no CCTV footage of him taking it, and he did not “flash the cash” by buying expensive items.

The theft is alleged to have happened between December, 2011, and July, 2012, until Kempster’s line manager Kate Connelly, who he worked with in the gold room, noticed a number of discrepancies in July, 2012, in the books relating to entries which he had signed off.

Miss Connelly informed store manager Susan Hurst.

Further investigations were made and Kempster was given disciplinary action before his employment was terminated.

Kempster, aged 23, of Woodgate Street, Great Lever, denies three counts of theft.

The court heard how Kempster and Miss Connelly would be sent gold up from the sales assistants in the Deansgate store to weigh and price up before sending both the gold and the offer money back down to the store.

If the customer accepted, they would take the money and the gold would go back to the gold room and documented using acceptance sheets signed by the customer, before it was sent to the smelters.

If the offer was declined the customer would take back the gold and the money would go back to the gold room.

Mr Phillips criticised the company’s system of inputting money into the books and spreadsheets as “ad hoc”, stating that anyone could have forged a signature or accessed the gold room’s computer due to low security and passwords.

Speaking to Mrs Hurst, Mr Phillips said: “If someone wanted to forge a signature no one would know if they had. Is it possible to tell who altered the spreadsheet?”

The jury at Manchester Crown Court also heard that any employee would have been able to gain access to the gold box in the safe which contained the money taken by the gold room staff because it did not have a lock on it.

However witnesses Miss Connelly and Mrs Hurst both said Kempster was the only person whose name was next to the discrepancies and argued if it was simple human error when transferring the amounts from day to day, either the money or the gold would have been found in the store.

The case continues.

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