A woman who stole her ex-partner’s safe containing almost £20,000 before splashing it on two cars has walked from free court.

Christine Sneddon waited until her victim had a medical appointment before packing her bags and stealing the safe, Teesside Crown Court heard.

The alarm was raised when the man returned to his home and police were able to track her down to a County Durham hotel where the keys for a newly bought Audi were found.

Annelise Augstad, prosecuting, said Sneddon had taken some of her belongings to her estranged son’s home and left behind the safe.

The court heard how police visited her son in an attempt to trace her and he pointed them in the direction of the Manor House Hotel and Spa in West Auckland where she was arrested.

“Police seized a number of items among them a car key for an Audi and a receipt from March 28 – the day she left the property with the money. She paid £4,995 for the car,” she said.

“When she was interviewed, she said the money was from her own inheritance and she told them there was cash under the carpet at the hotel where she was staying.

“Police returned to the hotel and £3,000 was recovered from under the carpet like she said.”

Miss Haugstad said the cash in the safe had come from an inheritance and the theft had left him devastated and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

She said Sneddon had used some of the stolen cash to buy her estranged son a Kia Sportage.

The 57-year-old pleaded guilty to theft following her behaviour on March 28 last year.

Amrit Jandoo, mitigating, said his client had been battling cancer since 2020 and was highly unlikely to offend again as he argued for her to avoid an immediate custodial sentence.

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He added: “The custody threshold has been crossed but her poor decision-making problems could be addressed by the probation service.”

Recorder Alex Menary sentenced the woman to 12 months in custody suspended for a year as a result of the cash being stolen from her ex.

He said: “When he was out you gained access to his safe and stole £18,000 from him. You took some that money round to your son’s for safekeeping and a relatively small amount was recovered - £3,000.”

Sneddon, of Beaumont Street, Bishop Auckland, was ordered to pay £15,000 in compensation and the £3,000 cash recovered was returned to her victim.