Padiham bookies boss stole cash to pay off loan sharks

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A manager at a Padiham bookmakers who stole £6,000 to pay off loan sharks threatening her partner’s life, has been given a community order.

Nicola Whittaker (44) took the money from the safe at William Hill bookies in Burnley Road leaving a note which read “I am really sorry for doing this. My family are at risk.”

The defendant, of Ulster Street, Burnley, then fled to Europe with partner Alan Laurie before he was tragically knocked down and killed by a lorry as he ran across a motorway near Barcelona in 2010.

The court was told Whittaker had stolen the money from her workplace out of fear and desperation after loan sharks turned up at her door.

Men were said to have come to her house demanding money and making threats and she feared for her safety.

The prosecution said Whittaker helped herself to the safe at William Hill after sending another male colleague home early.

The defendant, who had 11 years “exemplary” service at the bookies, made off with £6,000 which she claims was used to pay off her partner’s debts.

A colleague found the money had gone when she tried to provide winnings for a customer the following day on May 31st, 2010.

A note from Whittaker was left in the safe which read: “I am really sorry for doing this. I didn’t know what else to do. My family are at risk – it seems my only option. I did not want to do it. I can’t explain any more now.”

The court was told that Whittaker then fled the country with Mr Laurie who was said to be suffering from extreme paranoia following the threats.

The couple drove through France, Holland and into Spain but Mr Laurie became spooked by a roadblock on a motorway near Barcelona and jumped out the car.

He leaped over the central reservation and across the carriageway but was knocked down and killed by a heavy goods vehicle.

She remained in Europe with friends in the aftermath of the tragedy before returning to East Lancashire in September 2010 when she was later arrested and admitted the offence.

Graeme Tindall (defending) told the court that Mr Laurie had got into debt with “unscrupulous” people and believed his life was in danger and these fears were passed on to his client.

He said that Whittaker had been an exemplary employee and work colleagues said the theft had been out of character and added that “she must have been in real trouble to do this”.

He said that Whittaker, who is now studying for a law degree, left a note at the scene of the crime which was a full and frank confession.

Magistrates ordered her to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and pay William Hill compensation of £900.