A TRUSTED senior manager of a hardware shop systematically fleeced the firm of nearly £30,000 and frittered it away on family holidays and sending his son to university in Canada.
Trevor Heselton, who worked for hardware chain Charles Dickens for 20 years, pilfered the money in an 18-month spell. He issued false refund notes in a bid to cover his tracks.
But when the company owners saw their profits suffer, they launched an investigation and CCTV footage revealed Heselton’s crime.
Heselton is today starting a 12-month jail sentence after admitting theft.
Yesterday, Teesside Crown Court heard how he put people’s jobs at risk by stealing from the business.
Heselton rose to his top position within hardware chain Charles Dickens in a 20-year career.
The operations manager, based at the Hartlepool branch in Tower Street, was a close family friend of the business owners and was even best man at his assistant’s wedding.
But it all came crashing down after it emerged that he secretly stole £29,243 from the till in just over 18 months.
His former bosses spoke of their “shock” and “disappointment” at being let down by someone so close to them.
Heselton had started working for the business when he left school and returned in 1995.
Melissa Howlett, a director of The Smart Corporation, which owns the store, said: “We as a family have been extremely supportive to Trevor and have helped him through his ups anddowns throughout his life.
“If he had any problems we were always there to help him.
“After discovering the extent of the theft we were completely distraught, thinking about what has been happening over the past 18 months.
“We were so upset and felt let down that someone so close to our family and someone that we trusted with our business could do this to us.
“The amount of the theft from the business could have jeopardised many jobs throughout the company and could have caused other families to miss out through redundancy.
“The staff at Charles Dickens in Hartlepool, where Trevor worked, were shocked and disappointed by the events as he was such a well respected person within our company.”
As operations manager, Heselton also oversaw business at Charles Dickens branches in Spennymoor, Billingham and Newcastle.
The court heard Heselton, of Wyverne Court, Hartlepool, pocketed cash from the till from January 2011 to September 2012 and issued false refund notes in a bid to cover his tracks.
The directors launched an investigation after noticing a drop in the till and studied CCTV before realising Heselton was responsible.
His assistant Craig Howlett, who Heselton had been best man for, added: “My best friend has been stealing from us, I’m gutted.
“We have lost the trust of an employee of over 20 years and a close friend. I can’t believe it.”
Heselton spent some of the cash on family holidays and sending his son to university in Canada.
Martin Scarborough, mitigating, said Heselton, who admitted theft, was “not living in the real world” and was “deeply ashamed”.
Mr Scarborough added Heselton was behind with his mortgage payments and had been badly affected by the death of his father.
Judge Tony Briggs said too much money was stolen and for too long for him to pass a suspended prison sentence.
Judge Briggs said: “I appreciate there may be matters which led to this behaviour.
“But for a man of your maturity and your position it must have been perfectly obvious what you were doing was a gross breach of trust.”
Prosecutors have launched a proceeds of crime application to try and claw back the stolen money.
The court heard Heselton is willing to sell his house to pay it back.