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Fakenham woman Paula Baxter stole £26,000 from Wensum Pools to fund ‘lavish’ lifestyle - including tickets to watch Real Madrid

PUBLISHED: 17:58 27 April 2017 | UPDATED: 08:26 28 April 2017

It took a Norwich Crown Court jury just over an hour to clear him of the charges this morning. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

It took a Norwich Crown Court jury just over an hour to clear him of the charges this morning. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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A business owner has told how she struggles to trust people after a former employee stole almost £26,000 from her company.

Paula Baxter, 42, was jailed for 16 months on Thursday for taking money from the Fakenham-based swimming pool supplier Wensum Pools.

Norwich Crown Court heard how she used it to buy items including a Ford Focus and tickets for six people to watch Real Madrid in Spain.

She appeared in the dock alongside her 27-year-old husband Jamie, who was previously found guilty of converting criminal property.

The labourer, who was also previously employed by the company, was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for one year.

Business owner Andrea Morrison told the judge yesterday how her personal life had been affected.

She said: “I trusted her [Baxter] with the business accounts and she sat there abusing that trust every single day without a care.

“This has changed me as a person. I now find it so hard to trust anybody and this includes my employees.”

Prosecutor David Wilson said Baxter forged signatures and used the company credit card to support her “lavish lifestyle”.

It took place between January 2015 and February 2016 while the mother-of-two was temporarily employed to cover maternity leave.

But she was found out when the account manager returned and noticed discrepancies in the accounts.

Baxter and her husband, who live on Wensum Way in Fakenham, were both dismissed from the company.

Jonathan Goodman, for Baxter, said she accepted any wrong doing and gave a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity.

He added: “The reality was Paula Baxter was trying to juggle a life that was spiralling in terms of debt, and wanted to give the impression to her family of normality.”

Hilary O’Keefe, representing Baxter’s husband, said he was a man of good character whose two step children relied on him financially.

Judge Justin Rouse QC ordered for him to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £11,997 in compensation.

“In my judgement, you knew full well what your wife was doing,” Mr Rouse said.

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