A crooked accountant has been jailed for stealing £30,000 from a firm just weeks after five colleagues were killed when a 20ft-high wall collapsed ontop of them.
The tragic workers were crushed underneath nine tonnes of metal and concrete blocks at the Hawkeswood Metal recycling in Nechells, Birmingham, on July 7 last year.
A sixth man suffered a broken leg but escaped by digging his own way out of the rubble with his bare hands.
All five victims were Spanish nationals originally from The Gambia and were agency workers.
Just weeks after the disaster, scheming Joanne Perry, 45, plundered cash from Shredmet Ltd – which runs the recycling centre owned by Hawkeswood Metal – as fellow employees mourned the deaths of their colleagues.
Perry made a series of company payments to her own account, totalling £30,000 – as the public was raising cash for the victim’s families.
She was finally caught after the company received a bailiff’s letter in October over a cheque for £2,910.
Perry, of Delves, Walsall, West Mids., admitted fraud by abuse of position of trust and was jailed for two years and four month jail at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday (11/1).
Judge Melbourne Inman QC said: “I have no doubt that you were a trusted individual by those who anticipated you would be running their finances in their interests.
“Because of that they let you get on with it.
“The company was not only shocked that you had been stealing from them but it became clear that two of the payments in the summer of last year were shortly after a major tragedy had happened at the business and a number of people killed in an accident.”
The judge added that it was possible Perry had deliberately chosen the time of the tragedy to commit the fraud because it was less likely it would be discovered.
He said the crime had a “significant impact” on those who had been running the
business and working with Perry, who were still “grieving for their own mates.”
Judge Inman described Perry, who earned £35,000 a year at Shredmet, as a “thoroughly dishonest lady”.
The court heard Perry had a “dreadful history” of swindling previous employers – and had previously been jailed for stealing £200,000 from another company.
She made three payments from the company to her own account, amounting to £17,000, in June and July.
She then went on to plunder a further £13,000 in four more transactions later in the summer.
He said he took into account the fraud had not been sophisticated.