A FORMER supermarket cash office manager has spoken of her relief after £84,000 theft charges against her were dropped.
Now Karen Barrass wants to clear her name and move on with her life leaving the sorry saga behind her for good.
The 48-year-old, who worked as a cash office manager at Morrison’s, in Clarence Road, Hartlepool, says her world was turned upside down when she was hauled before company security chiefs and questioned about stealing £84,000 from the store’s cash machines, in July last year.
The mum-of-three asked for the attendance of police when she realised the finger of blame was being pointed in her direction, and was then arrested and walked through the main store with officers to be taken to Hartlepool Police Station.
She spent several hours in the cells and was questioned by detectives before being charged with one count of theft by employee, namely that manipulated figures to steal £84,260 between June 20, 2010, and July 13 last year.
Karen was then released on bail, told that she had been suspended from the job that she loved, before spending the last year avoiding friends, family and neighbours, hardly venturing from her home for fear of being judged for a crime she did not commit.
But in a dramatic turn of events, Karen – who is in remission from breast cancer after contracting the disease eight years ago – got a phone call out of the blue from her legal team the night before she was due to make her first appearance at Teesside Crown Court.
And she could not believe it when she was told that the Crown Prosecution Service had dropped the charges.
“I still can’t believe it, I keep thinking it’s someone playing a trick on me,” said emotional Karen of Burdon Place, in Peterlee, who has been cleared of the theft by employee charge.
“I’m an honest person who loved my job and I was accused of something I didn’t do.
“It has been an absolute nightmare. I can’t explain what it feels like, apart from you feel like a leper, a total outcast.
“I feel like everybody stares at me.
“I wouldn’t have been able to get through it without my family and my friends, especially my sister Alison Catleugh. I want everyone to see this so they know who I am and know I didn’t do anything, that I’ve been cleared.”
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed the dismissal of the case.
He said: “Since the initial decision to charge was taken in this case, further information has come to light through the police investigation that significantly undermines the credibility of a key prosecution witness.
“Without the evidence that this witness was to provide, there is no longer sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and the case against Karen Barrass has now been discontinued.”
Karen – who is mum to e-cigarette trader Steven Barrass jnr, 28, Morrisons produce worker Jordan Barrass, 21, and Army servicewoman Gabrielle Barrass, 20 – had worked at Morrisons for eight years. The grocery manager position she was in was made redundant, before she was offered the cash office manager’s role in 2010.
Karen, who is married to football coach Steven Barrass, 49, told the Mail that she “loved and lived” for her job, and would regularly work extra shifts to help out if the team was short-staffed due to illness or holidays.
But while she was at work one Friday, in July last year, she was called into an office where two Morrison’s internal security staff were waiting.
She said: “They asked me if I knew how to operate the ATM cash points, and I told them that I did. Of course i did, it was my job.
“We would empty them, replenish them and balance them. It was part of what the cash office did.”
Karen was told that there was a defecit in one of the cash machines and was asked if she knew why.
“I said ‘no’ I didn’t know why, and they just kept questioning me in a nasty, abrupt way,” she said. “I was telling them to check the CCTV footage and everything, I hadn’t done anything wrong.
“I actually asked for the police to be called in because I knew what was happening at that point.
“I asked to be arrested.”
She added: “I was taken through the main store and everybody saw. They didn’t handcuff me because I wasn’t resisting.”
While Karen was held in the police cells from about 6pm until 11pm, her house was searched by officers.
She said: “In the blink of an eye, I’d been suspended and sacked from the job I loved and my pay was stopped.
“It all just seems like a bad dream but I still haven’t woken up.”
A spokeswoman for Morrisons said it was inappropriate for the company to comment.