A SHOP assistant who pilfered so many scratchcards from the counter she left her boss with a £33,000 debt has walked free from court.

Sheila Hancock, 60, from Thirsk, will not have to pay back a penny to the shop owner whom she betrayed and who had regarded her as one of his family, Recorder Tahir Khan QC decided.

Read more: Crash between car and motorbike shuts A64 - Closure set to last hours

It was the second time she had been convicted of stealing from an employer, York Crown Court heard, and she had pocketed the winnings from the scratchcards.

Shop owner Virajkumar Patel said he couldn't believe it when he saw her taking the scratchcards in his shop on CCTV.

When he realised how many times she had stolen from him - including taking money from customers and not putting it in the till - his disbelief "went through the roof," he said in a statement.

"It will have a lasting effect on my and my family for a long time to come," he said.

He added that knowing she had COPD, a lung condition, he had tried to make her life as easy as he could, sparing her the heavy lifting and installing extra heaters to help her keep warm.

He must now pay Camelot the money she didn't pay for the scratchcards.

Hancock, of Hambleton Place, Thirsk, who was sacked by Mr Patel, pleaded guilty to theft from her employer between January 2020 and April 2021.

Altogether she stole £33,233.84.

"So much trust was placed in you. You breached that, not just once or twice but many, many times over the course that period," the judge told her.

"You caused lasting harm to a business that the owner was trying to build up."

He gave her a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years on condition she does 20 days' rehabilitative activities and 140 hours' unpaid work and ordered her to pay a £149 statutory surcharge.

But he denied a prosecution request that she be ordered to pay compensation to Mr Patel.

"You have nothing. It doesn't seem to me in the circumstances there is any point in me burdening you with compensation."

Michael Cahill, prosecuting, said Mr Patel allowed Hancock to continue working for his shop in Thirsk when he bought it in January 2020 and began an extensive refit.

She had worked for the previous owner for 10 years.

Initially when the shop failed to make a profit he put it down to the refit and the lockdowns.

But on April 9, 2021, he was looking at the shop CCTV when he saw her taking one of the scratchcards.

He called in an accountant who revealed the full extent of her crimes.

Ian West, for Hancock, said her actions were a "form of gambling addiction".

She was remorseful for her crimes and had depression and anxiety as well as COPD.

She wanted to get back into full-time work.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated North Yorkshire Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054