Harrogate woman jailed for stealing thousands from Morrisons

Trina Howards thieving spree came to light when bosses at the Morrisons branch in Hookstone Chase noticed massive shortfalls in takings at the till.
Trina Howards thieving spree came to light when bosses at the Morrisons branch in Hookstone Chase noticed massive shortfalls in takings at the till.

A Harrogate woman who stole over £8,000 while working on the till at Morrisons has been jailed for 10 months.

Trina Howard’s thieving spree came to light when bosses at the Morrisons branch in Hookstone Chase noticed massive shortfalls in takings at the till.

Howard, who worked at the tobacco kiosk in Morrisons petrol station, had been dipping into the till for at least four months, York Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Rob Galley said the 47-year-old, who has a previous conviction for theft by employee, had been “partitioning” money in the till and deliberately failing to put sales through.

Howard, the wife of an accounts manager, was arrested in November last year when staff caught her with £40 of make-up which she had stolen from the supermarket.

She was charged with two counts of theft by employee at the Morrison’s branch in Plumbton Park between August 1 and November 30, 2018. One charge related to the theft of £8,100 from Morrison’s in the four-month charge period. The other related to the theft of the make-up on November 8.

Howard, of Durham Way, Harrogate, admitted the offences and appeared for sentence on Tuesday.

Mr Galley said Howard had been stealing for “a minimum of four months” as set out in the charges, (but) “longer than that in her own admission." It’s believed that Howard had been stealing over an 18-month period, which accounted for significant shortfalls in Morrisons accounts in 2017 and 2018.

She would “hide the money in the till and then take it back out”, added Mr Galley.

Morrisons bosses launched an investigation around the time Howard was caught with the stolen make-up and over £400 in cash. They found that no sales entries had been put through in the garage kiosk during the four-month charge period.

Police searched Howard’s home and found over £6,000 in cash, as well as documents showing credit-card debts.

The court heard that in 2003 Howard was convicted of an audacious “conspiracy to steal” from a previous employer by “creating a ghost employee and drawing the wage of that fictitious person”.

Defence barrister Danielle Graham said that Howard - who had worked at the supermarket since 2012 but lost her job after being rumbled - was a “dutiful wife (and) mother” who had shown “genuine remorse” for what she had done “and what she’s put her family through as a consequence”.

She had since sought help from mental-health services and debt-management advisers “to put her finances and affairs in some proper order”.

Ms Graham said Howard had “readily admitted” the offences and told police they would find the stolen money at her house.

Judge Simon Hickey said it was clear that Howard had been dipping into the till on “many, many” occasions, adding: “What you were essentially doing was putting monies into the till, separating the ones you were going to steal by putting paper between the notes. This was a relatively-sophisticated stealing operation.”

He said although Howard had “your own difficulties and taken steps to address your behaviour”, an immediate prison sentence was unavoidable because of the seriousness of the offences and the fact that she had a similar previous conviction.

Howard will serve half of the 10-month service behind bars before being released on licence.

Mr Hickey also ordered her to pay back the full amount she had stolen to Morrisons.