Hayling Island holiday resort boss acquitted of stealing thousands of pounds

NOT GUILTY Elizabeth Owens
NOT GUILTY Elizabeth Owens
Bob Higgins at an earlier court hearing  Picture Habibur Rahman/Solent News

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THE case against a holiday resort manager accused of stealing from her employers has been thrown out of court.

Elizabeth Owens was accused of stealing £3,400 from Lakeside Coastal Village on Hayling Island, where she was the duty manager on reception.

But after the prosecution closed their case against the 31-year-old today the judge at Portsmouth Crown Court ordered the jury to find her not guilty.

Judge Sarah Munro QC said that while the crown’s case had initially seemed a strong one it had fallen apart as the evidence was heard.

She said: ‘Members of the jury one of my jobs in a criminal case is to keep an eye on the law throughout the case and to take stock at the end of the prosecution case and examine the state of the evidence at that stage.

‘I have taken the view that there is insufficient evidence in this case upon which you could conclude that this defendant was guilty of theft.

‘You would have to be sure before you could convict this defendant and in my view you could not be sure on the basis of the evidence you have heard.’

Members of the jury nodded as the judge spoke.

The judge directed the jury of eight men and four women to give a not guilty verdict on the one charge of theft.

She said that while the prosecution claimed the money had been taken using Miss Owens’ computer password other employees had told how they shared passwords.

The prosecution also argued that Miss Owens was the only member of staff working on the occasions money was taken but the judge said the staff rotas had been proved inaccurate.

And the judge said the ‘final nail in the prosecution’s case’ was a revelation that two men with previous convictions worked at the resort at the time the money went missing in 2010.

One, who was identified only as MB, was convicted of stealing from his employer in 2005 in an almost mirror image offence.

Miss Owens, of Selsmore Road, Hayling Island, had always denied the charge.

The judge directed that Miss Owens be given £117 to cover her travel expenses during the trial.