Editor’s note:  One of the defendants in this article, Mr Huw Grove, who was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the NHS in 2015, successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal and was exonerated after his conviction was quashed in 2017.

A MARRIED couple from Colchester have been cleared in their alleged part of a conspiracy to defraud the NHS of more than £3million.

Laura and Wayne Hill, both 39, were on trial for eight weeks at Leeds Crown Court, both facing charges of acquiring, using or possessing criminal property.

The trial heard the pair become involved in a plot against NHS England and Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

It centred around Neil Wood, from Leeds, who gave work to a number of his friends including the Hills, without ever going through a tender process.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud before the trial.

In a statement afterwards, the Hills, of Pier Close, said: “We are still in shock. This time last year we didn’t have any clue Neil was stealing from the NHS.

"The last few weeks of the trial have been a whirlwind nightmare. We have always kept up hope that the truth would be seen and we would be cleared.

"We are relieved that this ordeal is finally all over and we are rightly proven to be innocent.”

Also on trial were Huw and Jaqualine Grove, from Bristol, charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud, and Daniel Benton, from Leeds, and Terry Dixon, from Monmouth, each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud.

Wood, 41, who was employed by the Leeds and York NHS Trust before moving to NHS England, was responsible for managing training and staff development.

He outsourced work to Huw and Jaqualine Grove, 47, who ran their own company, The Learning Grove.

It was paid “well over” £3million of NHS money.

The jury was told almost exactly 50 per cent of all the money paid to The Learning Grove was transferred to another company, whose sole director was Wood’s wife Lisa.

The Hills were old friends of the Woods.

The court heard Laura, an actress, agreed to appear in training videos by The Learning Grove for the NHS and was paid a lump sum of nearly £40,000 up front for six DVDs.

When Grove moved to NHS England he worked with other outside companies and told them not to deal with the NHS directly, but to work with The Learning Grove.

The court heard The Learning Grove would negotiate discounts with the companies and then costs would be inflated before invoices were submitted to the NHS.

When the Hills heard the Woods had been arrested, they sought advice from their accountant who advised leaving the money in Lisa Hill’s business account, the trial heard.

But it was alleged some of the money was transferred into a personal bank account and spent.

The jury found Huw Grove, 44, and Dixon, 46, guilty of conspiracy to defraud.

They will be sentenced along with Neil Wood and Lisa Wood on January 8.

Lisa Wood pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering.

Jaqualine Grove, from Bristol, and Benton, 37, were also acquitted of all charges.