A BUSINESS couple have spoken of their devastation after an employee they treated like a daughter swindled them out of thousands of pounds.

At Bolton Crown Court last week Rebecca Hadfield was handed a suspended prison sentence after admitting fraud and theft.

Hadfield, aged 30, of Ventnor Avenue, Astley Bridge, had been taken on by Yvonne and Terry Hunt in 2007 as an accounts assistant at their Bolton-based telecommunications business, Swinton Communications Ltd.

By 2014 she was earning £21,000 a year as accounts manager and was trusted with control of the business’s finances.

But when her employers realised she was struggling with work and personal issues she was given a leave of absence.

It was then that Mr and Mrs Hunt gradually realised Hadfield had been taking money and making unauthorised purchases for herself using the company’s credit card and bank account.

“In her absence the whole world crashed down on us,” said Mrs Hunt.

“My husband and I were completely dumbfounded by this revelation. She had fooled us for years.

“The deceit, the lies and the betrayal that we endured was the most hurtful experience we have ever known.

“We loved her like a daughter, trusted her completely and felt like we had been hit by a train when her true nature came to light.”

Hadfield, a pregnant mother-of-one, was due to stand trial after denying fraud by stealing £13,951.35 from Swinton Communications and theft of £250 belonging to Vape Ltd, another company run by Mr Hunt.

But she changed her pleas to guilty and Judge Richard Gioserano sentenced her to 16 months in prison, suspended for two years and ordered her to participate in 20 days of rehabilitation activities.

Huw Edwards, prosecuting, told the judge how Hadfield committed the offences between 2010 and 2014 and the Hunts’ concerns about their employee began when Mrs Hunt found she had been locked out of her own accounts system.

When she did get access, transactions which had not been authorised were discovered, including purchases from Argos and Littlewoods.

When questioned by police, Hadfield claimed she had thought it was alright to use the company’s cards as Mrs Hunt had previously given her loans.

The generous employers even gave her a gift of £500 towards her wedding.

Colin Buckle, defending, stressed that, at the time of the dishonesty, Hadfield was involved in an abusive relationship with a partner who was a crack cocaine addict and she was supporting financially.

He added that the relationship caused Hadfield significant mental health issues and, since her offending came to light, she has been diagnosed as bipolar and suffering from depression.

Mr Buckle told the court that Hadfield had been an “exemplary employee” and that she has suffered a “monumental fall from grace”.

Judge Gioserano told Hadfield: “How you ever thought you were going to get away with this is beyond me. You were bound to be discovered.”

He added that he believes she is unlikely to ever offend again.

Mrs Hunt welcomed the conviction but says the betrayal has affected her attitude to others.

“This harsh lesson in life has taught me wariness and to be extremely careful of who you trust,” she said.