A MUM stole £20,000 worth of stock from the town centre jewellers where she worked in order to pay off loan sharks.

Vicki Leyland, of Grafton Street, West Park, took dozens of items of jewellery from Milton’s Jewellers on Ormskirk Street and pawned them at other stores in the town.

The 38-year-old also pawned items of stock belonging to the store where she worked back to the jewellers and took the cash, having been threatened by men her ex-husband owed money to.

On Thursday, April 11, she was spared jail after admitting fraud and theft by employee.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that the manager of Milton’s Jewellers noticed a number of items were missing from the store during a stock take in July 2018.

Internal investigations found a total of 25 items worth just shy of £20,000 had been stolen by Leyland, a sales assistant who had worked at the branch for around two-and-a-half years, over a 14-month period in 2017 and 2018.

Mum to an eight-year-old son, she had taken items of stock and pawned them at H&T Jewellers and Cash Converters in St Helens – as well as at Milton’s Jewellers itself.

A statement on behalf of the business described how Leyland had been a ‘popular member of staff’ who had been given a £4,000 advance on her wages while she was stealing from the business.

They added that ‘someone they had thought had been their friend had deceived them and put jobs at risk’.

The statement said: “We are a small, independent, family-run business.

“If the majority of the items of stock had not been recovered, it could have had a devastating impact.

“We had gone out of our way to help some so much, and we felt so disappointed and betrayed – we could not have helped her more than we did.”

Leyland, who has no previous convictions, had taken the items in order to pay off loan sharks her ex-husband owed money to – the couple having split up in 2015.

She described phone calls from a man with a St Helens accent who had harassed her for the money, telling the court: “He told me he was going to get money from me one way or another – he said ‘your son has lost his dad, you don’t want him to lose his mum as well.

“He said ‘you know what the consequences are if you don’t do it’, and that he was going to threaten my mum and dad – he was going to break into their house and frighten them.”

“I wanted to go to the police but I was so scared of what he was going to do to me, and I thought I was going to make it worse – I didn’t keep a penny.

“I was terrified of him – I didn’t tell anybody because I was so convinced that he was going to hurt me.”

Judge Neil Flewitt spared Leyland an immediate prison term – instead handing her an eight-month jail sentence suspended for a year.

She will also be ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work and to pay a victim surcharge.

Sentencing, judge Flewitt said: “I’m not going to send you to prison.

“I hope you appreciate that it’s been a fairly finely-balanced decision.

“You had been made redundant from your previous employment, and your new employer was generous to you – making work for you and making you feel welcome in the working environment by your colleagues.

“But you let these people down very badly.”