A WOMAN was branded “thoroughly dishonest” by a judge who jailed her for more than three years for stealing almost £250,000 from two businesses.

Susan Lynn Harker pleaded guilty to stealing £62,355.89 from Thomas Panels and Profiles in Leominster while she worked there as a purchase ledger clerk, Worcester Crown Court was told by prosecuting barrister William Douglas-Jones.

Some 15 fraudulent transactions were made between April 16, 2016 and June 16 the following year, he said.

She was able to do so by changing suppliers’ bank details to her own ready for the payment to be made, before changing them back again.

She was only found out when a payment to a supplier bounced, leading to the company launching a probe into why the details were not correct.

After being arrested by police on September 20, 2017, officers found what Mr Douglas-Jones called “questionable” payments from Tyrrells and a second probe was launched.

He added interrogation of the accounts at the snacks company, based just outside the north Herefordshire town, found 32 fraudulent transactions to Harker totally £178,647 over two years from October 2013.

Harker used the same system at both companies, going initially unnoticed at Tyrrells as there were no invoices for payments under £10,000.

To go undetected, Harker always paid herself less than that amount.

Speaking in Harker’s defence ahead of her sentencing at the court on September 7, barrister Simon Burch called it a “desperately sad case” of a woman who dealt with adversity “in the wrong way”.

He said the single mother was “significantly and powerfully affected by the loss of her mother” to breast cancer and felt pressured to be there for her children.

She also suffered from an abusive relationship, with the root cause of the crimes the “significant financial pressures”.

Harker was said to be “thoroughly ashamed of her actions” and her concerns were not for herself and own ill-health, but for her family.

Summing up the case, Judge James Burbidge QC said Harker, 50, of Dahn Drive in Ludlow had a trait of dishonesty in her character which was “breathtaking”.

He said Harker “went above and beyond” to ensure she wasn’t found out, and even resorted to accusing colleagues of bullying if they started to pay too much attention to her work.

For the two charges of fraud by abuse of position she was jailed for three years and four months.

The judge added a proceeds of crime application, to recoup the money, will follow.

The judge did take into account two “moving tributes” to her character and the affect being locked up would have on her family.

Harker was told she should expect to serve half of her sentence in prison and the rest on licence.