Belfast Telegraph

Post office worker who stole from ill woman avoids jail

By Chris Kilpatrick

A former post office employee who wept as she begged a judge to refrain from sentencing her to jail has walked free from court.

Pamela Burch (42) took £7,500 from an account belonging to a woman with mental health problems. She was caught after a nurse reported her concerns to police.

At Downpatrick Crown Court yesterday Burch was handed a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

The court was told the defendant had taken the money to pay for a lifestyle beyond her means, including foreign holidays and an expensive personalised registration plate for her car.

A nurse for the woman Burch took the money from went to the post office where the defendant worked – in her home village Ballywalter – and questioned her over the withdrawals.

She was told the victim had asked Burch to pay an electricity bill on her behalf.

But when police spoke with the defendant, she handed them an envelope containing £4,000.

During a subsequent search of her home, £3,000 in cash was found in a suitcase in Burch's attic and £500 in her handbag.

She initially claimed the money at her home was her savings. However, she later admitted 13 counts of false representation and one of possessing criminal property.

The woman she took the money from was described in court as a vulnerable person with a range of mental health problems.

She fell victim to the thefts between July and September 2012, with sums of £600 regularly taken from her account.

Burch, from Hawthorn Rise in Ballywalter, begged to be released when she was held in custody ahead of her sentencing.

She also cried loudly in court when warned earlier this week that she was likely to be jailed for the offences.

But yesterday at Downpatrick Crown Court she was spared a prison sentence and handed a suspended jail term.

However, her personal life has suffered since the crime, with her sister reportedly disowning her and problems with her marriage arising.

And a call centre job she took up after leaving the post office ended when her then employer was made aware of the offences.

Burch's sister owned the post office in the Co Down village at the time of the offending, with Burch herself employed there.

One of two character references provided to the court in Burch's defence was produced by an addiction charity for which she had been volunteering.

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