A 'TORTURED' swindler who stole £100,000 from a Worcester nursery while her boss was fighting cancer failed to prove she was a 'shopping addict', said a judge.

Her face twisted with anguish behind her Covid mask, Jane Myhill was jailed for two years and four months at Worcester Crown Court on Friday after stealing £102,593 from Worcester and Madresfield Early Years Centres while she worked as a bursar.

We can now bring you further details from the emotionally-charged court hearing after the mother was jailed for the thefts which took place between January 2015 and October 2019 when she was finally discovered and dismissed.

Forced to sell her family home and 'downsize', Myhill says she intends to pay the money back - and even have some cash leftover for covering the cost of the investigation by forensic accountants and any compensation for the distress she caused.

However, at the moment the funds remain locked in a frozen Barclays account and it was left to the business founder 'to take money out of her own pocket, her own savings, to keep the business going' said Tim Harrington, prosecuting.

Despite Myhill's assurances, a proceeds of crime timetable was drawn up but will be withdrawn if the matter is settled in the interim, the judge ruled.

Her victim and former friend, Alice Bennett MBE, who founded the nurseries looked on sombrely as Myhill was sentenced. Mrs Bennett sat just yards away from the former friend and colleague who betrayed her.

However, she says she had already forgiven Myhill and even expressed concern for her daughter after the hearing had finished.

The defendant ultimately broke down in tears in the dock when she learned her fate. Mrs Bennett had to remortgage her home and feared the thefts could have caused the businesses to close but they have 'kept running as best they can in these difficult times,' the prosecutor said.

The 55-year-old Christian, supported at court by the vicar of Great Malvern Priory who provided her with a reference, claimed she was a shopping addict after she splashed out on clothes, jewellery and make-up.

Sean Logan, for Myhill, emphasised her previous exemplary good character, including her charity work and voluntary work for schools.

Mr Logan said: "It was an addiction to shopping - buying things she did not even need to make herself feel better in what seems to have been a tortured time for her."

However, Judge Nicolas Cartwright said: "There is no evidence, it seems to me, of any clinical psychological addiction to shopping, or anything else for that matter, at the time of the offending. At most, the money was spent on yourself to make yourself feel better."

In sentencing Myhill of The Croft in Cromer, Norfolk, the judge said the thefts had taken place on a regular and repeated basis over four and a half years until her 'discovery and dismissal' in October 2019.

"The thefts were, of course, in gross breach of trust, the trust that was placed in you not just as an ordinary employee of the business but as a bursar responsible for the finances.

"Cynically in the latter two years, or thereabouts, the scale of the thefts had escalated. You were doing this when Alice Bennett was being treated for an aggressive cancer as you well knew."

Judge Cartwright told Myhill that her culpability was high because of the breach of a high degree of trust and responsibility. He went on to describe the sophistication of the thefts which involved the manipulation of two different computer systems. Judge Cartwright also identified additional harm within the sentencing guidelines and said that this impact was not just financial.

"She (Alice Bennett) had regarded you as a friend. She regarded you as having been well treated throughout your employment," he said.

This included time off for Myhill to deal with family needs and support offered during her personal difficulties including the death of her father.

"She goes on to say how morale and trust has been degraded within the business. She is plainly very much hurt emotionally by virtue of the fact you capitalised on the fact she was away from work being treated to save her life from serious, aggressive cancer when your offending was at its peak," said the judge.

He told Myhill that Mrs Bennett having to 'sort out the mess you had left behind' would have caused stress that was hardly conducive to her recovery from that illness.

The judge accepted as mitigation Myhill's previous, positive good character, her expression of remorse and the evidence that she intended to repay the money.

He also took into account that a prison sentence served under coronavirus restrictions would be more severe and factored in her early guilty plea at magistrates court, reducing the length of the custodial sentence by a third.