Cashier at Marsden Building Society stole £20,000 from ‘vulnerable’ customer (89)

Amy McKechnie

Amy McKechnie

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A BUILDING society cashier who stole more than £20,000 from a “vulnerable” 89-year-old customer and cleaned out one of his accounts is behind bars.

Amy McKechnie, then working at the Marsden in Nelson, initially started her plan “carefully,” repeatedly helping herself to £500 a time and testing the water by stealing twice in one day. When she did not get found out, McKechnie, said to have targeted the pensioner’s accounts because she thought she could get away with it, got greedy. She made out a building society cheque for £12,395.82 to her friend Catriona Stuart. Stuart, wanting to make some easy cash, turned a blind eye to her friend’s dishonesty and put it in her bank account, Burnley Crown Court heard.

The 89-year-old knew nothing of what had gone on until after McKechnie had been rumbled. He had been fully reimbursed by the Marsden.

McKechnie (21), of Portland Street, Nelson, who has two cautions for shoplifting, had earlier admitted 17 charges of theft between August and October, 2009. She was jailed for 16 months. Stuart (20), of Beresford Street, Nelson, had pleaded guilty to concealing or converting criminal property. She received 30 weeks in detention, suspended for 12 months, with 100 hours unpaid work. A proceeds of crime hearing will be held later.

Sentencing, Judge Beverly Lunt told McKechnie she had been in a position of high trust, had carried out a “calculated and sustained “ scheme to take money and had become greedy. The judge continued: “These were mean, despicable and serious offences which potentially undermine the trust the public place in banks and building societies.”

Mr Joseph Hart (prosecuting) said McKechnie had worked at the Marsden since July, 2008. The branch held a number of pass books in its safe for customers, generally because they were vulnerable. The 89-year-old’s bank books were kept in the safe. The defendant had access to the safe and knew the pensioner’s details.

On 16 occasions, from August, 2009, she took £500 a time from three accounts, withdrawn in cash lump sums, which were on the computer system, but not entered into the pass books. On October 1st, she took the entire balance from one of the three accounts and made out a cheque to her co-defendant. The money went into Stuart’s account. Shortly after, Stuart gave McKechnie £7,850 and, it appeared, kept just under £5,000 in her bank.

Mr Hart said after the Marsden became suspicious, McKechnie was suspended from her post. The 89-year-old was unaware of what had happened to his accounts until he made a statement for the court proceedings. He had not lost any money, but the bank had. Both defendants were interviewed by police and gave no comment. Neither had any previous convictions.

Miss Katherine Pierpoint (for McKechnie) said she was deeply ashamed and devastated to find herself before the court.

McKechnie appreciated she could have no complaint if she was sent to immediate custody. At first, she had hoped to be able to help out her father, who was having financial troubles. The barrister continued: “She was never going to get away with it. She has not targeted these accounts because of the man’s age, but because they were not being used. At some stage, it would have been discovered.” Miss Pierpoint added: “She is working and her aim is to pay this money back.”

Defending Stuart, Mr Richard Taylor said she had been in debt and had been asked by her friend if she wanted to make some money. The defendant, now taking a performing arts degree, was ashamed and embarrassed by what she had done.

The solicitor added: “She has made one very stupid mistake, at a time of her life when she was at an exceptionally low ebb.”