'Catfish' persuaded Sainsbury's worker to steal £7k from the tills

The thefts happened when Stimpson was working at the Sainsbury's Local on  St Aldates, Oxford Magistrates' Court heard <i>(Image: Oxford Mail)</i>
The thefts happened when Stimpson was working at the Sainsbury's Local on St Aldates, Oxford Magistrates' Court heard (Image: Oxford Mail)

A married woman who became infatuated with an ‘actor’ online stole more than £7k from the till in Sainsbury’s to send to her internet friend.

Anna Stimpson’s ‘unsophisticated’ theft saw her secrete cash in her sleeve when she opened the till at the St Aldates store to serve customers.

She used some of the cash to buy high-value gift cards to pass on to the fraudster online.

On Wednesday (January 1), Oxford Magistrates’ Court heard that the 40-year-old had been stealing money over the course of around three weeks from January 20 last year.

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By the time she was caught in mid-February she was found to have stolen £7,364.

Prosecutor Ann Sawyer-Brandish said Stimpson attended a disciplinary hearing with her bosses at Sainsbury’s - when she admitted stealing from the tills.

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She was sacked by the firm for whom she had worked for seven years and the matter was referred to Thames Valley Police.

Invited to a voluntary interview at the police station, she again admitted the theft.

Ms Sawyer-Brandish said the store assistant told police officers that she had ‘met a person online – an actor in America’.

Acting under ‘his’ instructions ‘she stole the money essentially to give to him’, the prosecutor said.

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Mitigating, Nawaz Khan said: “At the time of this offence she was going through a very significant low point in her life, in terms of her depression and also her vulnerability.

“[She had] been taken advantage of by this person that she’d met online, who she became besotted with and was essentially following instructions to buy gift cards and to send money to him.

“This was not motivated by any personal intention for gain for herself.”

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He said the theft was ‘very unsophisticated’ and all her dips in the till had been caught on the store’s CCTV system.

“It was not very well planned or executed,” the advocate said.

Mr Khan told the bench: “It’s a significant amount of money. There’s no getting away from that, but this is not a normal case.”

Stimpson was supported in court by her mother and her husband, the magistrates heard. “This whole case has caused considerable strain on the whole family.”

The defendant, of Clinton Close, Rose Hill, pleaded guilty last month to theft from her employer. She had no previous convictions.

The magistrates imposed a 12 month community order with up to 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days and 40 hours of unpaid work.

She was ordered to pay back £7,364 in compensation at the rate of £100 a month. It will take more than six years to clear the sum.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward