Saltram Club accused: I don't know who stole cash from safe
A STEWARD accused of stealing almost £40,000 from a social club and its members has told a court she could not explain how cash had vanished from a locked safe.
Tonia Bailey, aged 47, reported to the police that thousands of pounds in Christmas savings had been stolen from the office at the Saltram Club, Plymouth Crown Court heard.
She told a jury that she had seen an estimated £8,000 to £9,000 in the safe only four days before in November 2010.
Bailey said nobody had broken into the office or the safe at the club in Lipson and only three people had the combination – herself, her husband and fellow steward Tony and their deputy Tessa Down.
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Andrew Maitland, for the Crown Prosecution Service, suggested if it were not her, the thief had to be her husband or Mrs Down. Neither is facing prosecution.
Bailey said: "I cannot explain it. I do not suspect anybody."
Bailey is charged with stealing more than £19,000 from the Christmas thrift club through 2010.
Members would pay in cash through the year and get their money back early in December, with the interest on their savings helping to pay for a Christmas party for children.
But the court heard the money, estimated at more than £19,000 by the woman in charge of its collection, was never banked and was kept instead in the safe.
Mr Maitland suggested Bailey had made up a "story" about the theft to cover up her own crime.
He said: "It was an act of desperation because you could not make up the money because of your own financial position."
Bailey replied: "Absolutely not."
She admitted using £6,000 from the thrift club to pay an emergency electricity bill because a bailiff was threatening to cut off the power in June 2010.
Bailey said the club committee was in "full knowledge" of what happened.
She added that she had intended to replace all the members' savings from the takings but there had been a shortfall of between £1,000 and £1,500.
Mr Maitland suggested that by a "process of elimination" she was the only one who could have stolen thousands of pounds found to be missing from the club's accounts.
He said anyone else stealing substantial amounts would have been uncovered as she was the one doing the books.
Bailey repeatedly denied knowing how the shortfall in accounts had occurred.
Former club treasurer Sue Russell, who left in 2003, told the court how the combination for the safe had been written on a card by the engineers.
She added she never saw the card and it was placed in a sealed envelope with her signature and that of the then secretary across the seal.
Mrs Russell said the envelope was then placed in a locked filing cabinet.
Bailey denies stealing £19,231 from the Christmas thrift club between December 31, 2009 and November 27, 2010. Bailey pleaded not guilty to the theft of £19,477.47 from the social club between January 1, 2010 and February 3, 2011.
She also denies one charge of false accounting, where she is alleged to have altered the books to cover up her theft.
Judge Paul Darlow was due to sum up the case today and the jury was expected to retire to consider its verdicts.