Hayling Island resort manager tells of relief as theft case is thrown out of court

NOT GUILTY Elizabeth Owens
NOT GUILTY Elizabeth Owens

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A HOLIDAY resort manager accused of stealing from her employers has spoken of her relief after the case was thrown out of court.

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

But after the prosecution closed its case against the 31-year-old, the judge at Portsmouth Crown Court ordered the jury to find her not guilty on the charge of theft.

Outside court Miss Owens said: ‘It’s difficult but I’m just relieved it’s all over.’

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.’

The judge 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 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 Judge Munro 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, always denied the offence. She has since left her job at the Warner Leisure resort in Fishery Lane.

Crown Prosecution Service spokeswoman Marie-Dominique Meunier said: ‘The case was reviewed by an experienced senior crown prosecutor, who concluded based on the evidence available that there was sufficient evidence to have a realistic prospect of conviction to show that Miss Owens had stolen the money, and that it was in the public interest to prosecute. When the evidence was tested in court it appeared that there were discrepancies from the evidence that was initially provided in the statements to the police.

‘The CPS accepts the decision.’