A ‘wicked’ drug addict repaid a compassionate couple who had given him a job and flat by robbing them of thousands of pounds.
Heartless Lee Bower stole almost £8,000 from postmaster Terry Fieldhouse and his wife Caroline – who say they had treated him, his partner and young children like ‘family’.
Jailing him for 32 months at Sheffield Crown Court, Judge Peter Kelson said: “You have not only ruined your partner’s life, your children’s life but this family’s life. Your theft is nothing short of wicked.”
Bower, aged 30, of Manor Lane, Manor, was given a job as an assistant in the Fieldhouses’ shop on Brinsworth Road, Catcliffe, and he moved into a flat above the premises with his partner and two children.
But Sheffield Crown Court heard he became unreliable – and a suspicious Mr Fieldhouse eventually discovered Bower had stolen almost £8,000 from the shop safe. The postmaster, who was forced to remortgage the family home after the extent the theft came to light, welcomed his jail term.
Mr Fieldhouse, aged 49, said: “What hurt us was that we employed him and employed his partner and we gave them a home.
“We looked after his kids from time to time and they were treated like an extension of our own family.
“He nicked a lot of money from us and caused us tremendous hardship.
“We think he took between £20,000 and £30,000, but he was only charged with taking £8,000.
“He hurt our family and children and ruined our Christmas. We’ve had to remortgage our home for another 20 years.
“When you put his sentence into perspective, 32 months isn’t a lot but in today’s society it’s probably a fair sentence.
“What is also upsetting is that it all blew up near Christmas. The police stepped up their investigation on December 23, which was our son’s eighth birthday, so we had to cancel his party.
“Our two older children aren’t well and have diabetes and this has put tremendous strain on them.”
The court heard Mr Fieldhouse became suspicious of Bower when he became unreliable and checked CCTV footage – which revealed he had stolen £6,430 from the shop safe.
When confronted, Bower – who was said to have passed a CRB check – said he was trying to rectify earlier errors he had made with the cash float and was going to repay it.
Mr Fieldhouse let him off but a few days later found more money was missing and CCTV footage again showed Bower thieving – this time £1,500.
Prosecutor Mehran Nassiri said Bower told police he had been addicted to Co-codamol for years and was making mistakes so took money from the safe to balance the till.
He told officers he had recently started taking cocaine and may have used some of the money to buy drugs, but did not know how much he had taken.
The former Morrisons supermarket worker, whose children are aged five and three, also told officers he was in financial trouble and needed money to repay a loan shark.
He admitted theft and burglary on December 17 and 20, last year.
The court heard Bower’s painkiller addiction had ‘spiralled out of control’ when he started working at the shop.
He is now drug-free but his partner has walked out with his children – ‘disgusted’ with his behaviour.
In court, Judge Kelson told him: “Mr Fieldhouse and his wife bent over backwards out of sheer compassion to try and help you and your partner and your children with your problems.
“Their Christmas and son’s birthday on December 23 was completely ruined and they have two disabled children who require constant care and numerous trips to hospital and they are showing signs of distress.”
n Following the theft, Mr Fieldhouse has pledged to run next year’s London Marathon in aid of Junior Diabetes. To sponsor him, visit www.justgiving.com/terry-fieldhouse