Headteacher Andrew Wilkie jailed for £53k theft from school

A headteacher has been jailed for 16 months after stealing more than £53,000 from his school to fund a gambling addiction.

Andrew Wilkie, 41, admitted two charges of theft from Southdown Primary School in Buckley, Flintshire, after losing his life savings on online poker sites.

He took the money by cheque and credit transfers between March and October last year, Mold Crown Court heard.

Wilkie also spent £90,000 of savings and £70,000 from remortgaging his home.

He owned up to theft after it the school was about to undergo an emergency audit.

Flintshire council had received an anonymous tip-off on 18 October last year that there was a problem.

Mold Crown Court, sitting at Chester, heard that Wilkie cleared his desk after hearing about the audit and went home, telling his wife he had taken £53,000 from the school and that they were in financial ruin.

He then contacted the school governors to confess.

The court was told how Wilkie, a father-of-three, became depressed after he was suspended from the school following an allegation of a sexual nature by a pupil.

No action was taken and he was allowed to return to school, but he turned to online gambling.

In addition to taking more than £50,000 from the school, the court heard how he spent £90,000 of his family savings and £70,000 from remortgaging the family home without his wife knowing, the court heard.

Wilkie knew that a charitable fund operated at the school and it was not subject to local education authority auditing.

The court was told that a planned extension to the school was put on hold after Wilkie spent the money.

'Position of trust'

Wilkie admitted two theft charges with eight similar offence taken into consideration.

Judge Merfyn Hughes QC said it was a very sad, but a very serious case.

"The most significant aggravating feature is that you were in a position of trust," said Judge Hughes.

"Given your role as headmaster it was a high degree of trust.

"The funds that ought have been used for the benefit of pupils have been lost and there has been an impact on both staff and pupils at the school."

A specialist financial investigation will now take place under The Proceeds of Crime Act to see how much money can be returned, the court heard.

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