THE treasurer of a sailing club who stole £18,000 from the organisation in a six-year scam last night told The News ‘I’m very sorry.’
Wendy Ludford took £60 from Tudor Sailing Club, Eastern Road, Portsmouth each fortnight for about six years after her gambling first husband fled, leaving her with a mountain of debt.
Ludford used the money to buy her weekly shop and moved cash between the Tudor Sailing Club’s bank accounts to conceal her deceit.
But the 58-year-old said she would not have stolen from the club if she had not been desperate.
She said: ‘I’m very sorry for what happened many years ago when I was at a completely different stage of my life.’
Ludford’s cover-up was exposed when Tim Stell launched a probe into the club’s finances after being appointed commodore in February last year.
He arranged to meet finance manager Ludford several times to discuss his concerns – but each time she fobbed Mr Stell off or failed to turn up.
Then in May her web of deceit was finally broken when Ludford, the club’s treasurer for 15 years, resigned and confessed to stealing the cash. By then she had secretly repaid about £1,600 of the debt.
Kate Fortescue, prosecuting at Portsmouth Crown Court, said: ‘She gave Mr Stell a letter of resignation and an explanation for the missing monies. She said in that letter that she had borrowed money from the club’s accounts between 1995 and 2001 because her first husband had gambled away their money and they were in debt.’
Ludford, of St John’s Avenue, Waterlooville, was arrested and later admitted stealing the £18,000 from the Eastern Road club in Portsmouth between 1995 and 2001.
Tim Sparkes, defending, said of Ludford, whose second husband is terminally ill: ‘It came to light because she wanted to make repayments for the past.
‘She is deeply remorseful for what she did.
‘She has a very unwell husband who she cares for.’
‘She is determined that whatever happens, the money she took from the club will be repaid in some way,’ he added.
Ludford, who has no previous convictions, was sentenced to 12 months in jail suspended for two years and told to do 180 hours of unpaid work.
She was also ordered to pay £16,400 compensation to Tudor Sailing Club.
Ludford said: ‘It’s disappointing that the sailing club saw fit to take the matter this far when I was already paying back the money I owed them. I feel very sad that I have lost many good friends from the club over this action.
‘The decision to take the case to the police was taken even after I had offered to pay for legal documents agreeing I would repay the money. People that know me will appreciate how desperate I must have been in those days and I will ensure the sailing club gets the remainder of the money owed back.
‘I would like to thank my family and friends for the amazing support they have given me over the last few difficult months since the committee of the sailing club decided to put the matter in the hands of the police.’