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Newmarket woman avoids jail after stealing £12,000 from village store

A Newmarket woman who stole thousands of pounds, crippling a village store has avoided a jail term.

Forty-four-year-old Kerry Mowl, of Doug Smith Close, admitted stealing £12,000 from Ashley Stores between November 2017 and April 2019. She was given a eight month jail term, suspended for 12 months when she appeared at Cambridge Crown Court on Wednesday. She was also ordered to complete 100 hours’ unpaid work and repay the £12,000 by November 30.

The court heard that such was the impact of Mowl’s stealing that the store owners were left unable to keep their shelves fully stocked leading to rumours locally that the shop was about to close.

Prosecuting Sarah Porter told the court the former shop worker had taken between £30 and £50 a day from the store’s till after voiding transactions and then pocketing the cash.

Miss Porter said Mowl had done this since Alan and Jo Boyd had bought the shop in July 2017, with the owners only being alerted to her dishonesty when they upgraded the till to a more sophisticated system.

She said that on investigation of security camera footage Mowl, who had worked at the store for about nine years, could be seen going into the back room and putting the money in her bag.

In a statement, Mr Boyd said customers had been given the impression the store was closing because of the lack of stock on the shelves, caused by the financial impact of the stealing. And he said there were rumours she was let go because the store could not afford to keep her on.

“As a result of this theft, we have been struggling to make ends meet, both in the store and at home, as the takings were not truly reflecting what we were hoping to achieve,” he said.

“Now that we have discovered what was going on, I am looking forward to our lives improving with a lot less work related stress. We may now be able to do things at work and socially that previously we could not afford to.”

During the 24-minute sentencing, the court heard Mowl, who now works as a part-time cleaner, would be able to repay the money she had stolen thanks to a family trust fund.

In mitigation, Michael Peters said that Mowl was ‘very remorseful’ but had been ‘struggling to make ends meet’.

He said at the time she was suffering from an illness, later diagnosed as Graves’ Disease, and had also discovered she was adopted, with her biological father living in Australia, who she wanted to go and see.

The court was told Mowl felt she ‘had been taken over by somebody else’ and it was not her usual character.

Sentencing, Judge Stuart Bridge told her: “There was a degree of planning. You knew what you were doing over that period.”

He said the theft had a serious impact on the running of the business, but he had to take into account her guilty plea.

“Village stores form an extremely valuable service to local communities over and beyond supply of necessary goods and those who manage and own them work extremely long hours,” he said.