A CLEANER has admitted stealing more than £1,000 from the Duchess of Westminster.
Paula Louise Jones of Kent Road, Lodge, Wrexham, was a trusted member of staff at the Eaton Hall estate at Eccleston.
But after five years working at a job she enjoyed, the 49-year-old stole an unknown value of cash in Sterling and Euros from the private quarters of Eaton Hall, the home of Natalia Ayesha Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster, and Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster.
At Chester Magistrates Court, prosecutor Rob Youds said that between September 30 and December 16, last year, the Duchess had become aware that money was disappearing from her handbag and a desk in the sitting room.
Referring to a statement the Duchess made to police, Mr Youds said her suspicions were first aroused after she withdrew £1,000 for a European holiday and general use.
Between £600 and £800 was put in the sitting room desk and the remainder in her handbag.
She later noticed that some of the notes in her bag were missing.
On a second occasion, another £1,000 was placed in her handbag which was left in the nursery.
Eight days later, the Duchess discovered some of the money had gone although she was not sure how much.
She checked and discovered cash was also missing from the desk.
The incidents were reported to the estate’s operations manager Ian Samuel, before a further 100 euros went missing from the handbag, which again had been left in the nursery.
On this occasion, only four people had had access to the private quarters, one of whom was Mrs Jones.
Covert CCTV cameras were installed in the nursery and sitting room, Mr Youds said.
On December 16, the Duchess left money in her bag in the nursery before leaving the house at 9am.
When the head butler checked the bag, two notes were missing.
CCTV footage showed Jones taking notes out of the duchess’s purse, Mr Youds said.
“Further checks on further occasions showed Mrs Jones going into the sitting room and nursery and on each occasion taking money.”
Mrs Jones admitted taking the money which the Duchess estimated in total came to more than £1,000.
Interviewed by police, Jones said she was guilty but she didn’t know why she had taken the money.
“She said she didn’t need the money but it made her feel better and that’s why she kept doing it,” said Mr Youds.
No claim for compensation was submitted by the claimant.
Ian Barnes, defending, said his client had suffered from depression since the death of her late husband 20 years ago and found taking money ‘made a slight lift in her mood’.
He said her depression had been exacerbated recently by new difficulties at work.
“It was a job she enjoyed very much but towards the end things started to change,” said Mr Barnes.
He said Mrs Jones felt some colleagues were beginning to turn against her and talking about her mental health problems behind her back.
“On one occasion she became aware of money that was unattended,” he said, “and for some reason decided to take it.
“She was not struggling with financial problems and can’t remember what the money was used for – it was just added to the household pot – but once she took the money it made a slight lift of her mood.”
Mr Barnes said it was clear Mrs Jones did not take what she had done lightly and had immediately resigned to minimise trouble for her employers.
“She speaks very fondly of the Duke and Duchess,” he said, “and feels very badly she’s let them down as they put a great degree of trust in her.”
The case was adjourned pending a probation report.
Mrs Jones was released on unconditional bail.