A WOMAN and her partner have both been jailed after a court heard they enjoyed a luxury lifestyle funded through her stealing £400,000 from her employers Asda.

Over a six year period Jennifer Ward and her partner Alistair Lobban spent money like it was going out of fashion, Nadim Bashir prosecuting told Leeds Crown Court.

That included foreign holidays and a timeshare week at a cottage in the Scilly Isles which cost them around £30,000.

Between 2004 and 2010 their joint spending was “colossal” topping £320,000 including £157,000 alone on Ward’s Marks and Spencer card.

Ward worked in accounts for the supermarket giant and used her position to take money and used gift vouchers which she later recycled again for cash, the court heard today.

When police searched the couple’s home at Coppins Farm House, Wigginton Road, York, ASDA gift vouchers with a face value of more than £200,000 were discovered along with £30,000 in cash.

They also discovered an Aladdin’s cave of new electrical items some of which had not even been taken out of their boxes.

Inquiries revealed over the period the pair had spent £98,000 on entertainment and travel including £3,700 on theatre tickets and more than £50,000 at their favourite hotels, including the Star Castle, also in the Scilly Isles where Ward always asked for the best room.

The couple were about to go on a £4,000 Caribbean cruise had Ward not been arrested in 2010. Their £98,000 expenditure on entertainment and travel also included £3,700 on theatre tickets and £9,000 on flights.

Ward, 49, who admitted theft and having control of articles for use in fraud was jailed for two years and Lobban, 52, who was convicted by a jury of entering into a money laundering arrangement was jailed for 12 months.

Sentencing them Judge Tom Bayliss QC said her offending involved a gross breach of trust.

“On the face of it the two of you are a perfectly ordinary couple but underneath it all, the two of you were I am satisfied, both motivated by insatiable greed.”

He said the dishonesty might have started as a trickle but the flood gates had opened on her dishonesty. In addition to their joint expenditure Ward had spent money on clothes, jewellery including £12,000 at one shop in York and collectables, including £5,400 at a shop in Pickering.

The couple had been considering buying a third house in Strensall for £135,000 in cash.

The offences came to light after Ward was captured stealing some cash on a covert camera installed at the Monk's Cross store after other staff became suspicious about her lifestyle including the timeshare, regular holidays and her jewellery.

Craig Hassall representing her said she had inherited money and had a good work ethic doing several other jobs while working at Asda but felt she had been given an inappropriate level of trust there.

She was remorseful for what she had done and fully expected to lose everything in future financial hearings.

Lobban told the jury Ward looked after their finances because she was better with money than he was. He said he had no reason to be suspicious about their lifestyle believing she was a good saver.

Paul Williams representing him said he still considered himself innocent. The court heard he suffered from depression and alcoholism and Mr Williams suggested his drinking problems had impaired his judgment.

Afterwards, Detective Inspector Ian Wills, head of North Yorkshire Police’s Financial Investigation Unit, said: “This is perhaps one of the most bizarre investigations I have been involved in.

“On the face of it Ward appeared to be a hard working woman holding down her job at Asda and at several local pubs. However, the search of her property following her arrest, gave a clear indication that both her and Lobban were living well in excess of their declared income and were amassing a fortune.

“It took two police search teams three days, working 16 hours each day, to log and recover the vast quantity of goods that had been bought with some of the proceeds of the crime.

“Ward’s greed clearly got the better of her and led her to abuse the trust placed in her by her employers.”

DI Wills added: “I would like to pay particular tribute to the work of Detective Constable Sarah Bullock and Financial Investigator Paul Dowsland who had the mammoth task of establishing their joint spending and accumulation of assets for presentation to the court.”