Anger as Peterborough firm brought to its knees after betrayal by ex-employee

Canopy UK Owners Lisa and John Ellingham'Crown Court, Peterborough'Monday 05 August 2019. 'Picture by Terry Harris. THA
Canopy UK Owners Lisa and John Ellingham'Crown Court, Peterborough'Monday 05 August 2019. 'Picture by Terry Harris. THA

A couple whose business was brought to its knees when a former employee took £75,000 have spoken of their anger at the betrayal.

Lisa and John Ellingham started up Canopy Direct UK from their own home a decade ago, building the firm up to the point it took on large premises in Woodston.

Dianne Polson

Dianne Polson

But now the company –which makes canopies and extractor fans for restaurant and hotel kitchens – is struggling to stay afloat after former worker and single mum Dianne Polson stole £75,000 to fund her gambling addiction.

Polson was sitting just a few feet away from Lisa in the office, as the directors fretted about the next bill coming into the firm, but she continued to siphon money from the accounts for three years before she was caught. It total, she took £75,785.88 before her fraud was uncovered and she was sacked in August 2018.

More: Peterborough mum stole £75,000 from family run firm to fund gambling addiction

On Monday Polson (45) of Oak Avenue, Hampton, Peterborough, was jailed for three years and four months after admitting fraud. The court heard there was little prospect of the money ever being recovered, as Polson has no assets.

During the court hearing, Lisa– who is currently fighting cancer after a tumour was found in her eye – broke down in tears as she told Judge Sean Enright the effect the crime had had on the business, and also her family.

Speaking outside court, she said she was pleased justice had been served. She said: “She was almost like my right hand man. She looked me in the eye when we were struggling. I can’t believe what she has done. We trusted her.

“She has not been in contact to say sorry. The only thing she has contacted us about is to say that we owed her money for wages.

“She continued to take money right up until the last week she was here. It has been so stressful for myself, for John and for our children. It has had an impact on everyone. We had 10 staff when she started, we have had to cut that to five. It is a struggle, but we will get through it.”

In mitigation, Dianne Polson said a custodial sentence would have a huge impact on her teenage daughter, who had a number of mental health problems.

Nenad Spasojevic, defending, said: “She is deeply, deeply ashamed.

“She is a single mother of an 18-year-old daughter who suffers significant mental health issues.”

Mr Spasojevic said a suspended sentence was appropriate in the case, and Polson had also sought help to put an end to her gambling problem.

Judge Sean Enright questioned how much remorse she had shown, saying: “I think she was sorry she got caught.”

He said because of the impact on the firm, there was no option but to impose “a significant custodial sentence.”

A proceeds of crime hearing to deal with all financial matters is due to be held in December,2019.