A CROOKED cleaner has been spared jail after spending years stealing jewellery and cash from the homes she was working in.

Maria Preston had admitted four counts of theft and a hearing was held at Chelmsford Crown Court to establish the correct facts.

The judge found in favour of the prosecution.

He said the witnesses were of good standing, worthy of credit and where their version differed from the defendant’s, he accepted the witnesses’ evidence.

Preston, 44, of Crome Road. Clacton, who is known to several of the victims as Gloria, was convicted of stealing cash and jewellery totalling £6,180.

The thefts took place at properties in Clacton between 2014 and early 2016.

She was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, for each of the four charges, to run concurrently.

Two of Preston’s victims, John McNeill and Andrea Smith, were in court to give evidence and hear the sentence.

CCTV footage, captured by the couple when they grew suspicious, shows Preston rooting around in drawers and pockets.

Following the sentencing, Mr Mcneill and Miss Smith said: “While we were having building work done, Gloria came highly recommended to us by a friend.

“We needed a cleaner as we had our own business, working 12 hour days 7 days a week.

“Initially she worked eight hours a week in June and July 2015, which then reduced to four hours once a week.

“Towards the end of 2015 there were a few times we had noticed things were out of place.

“Our teenage daughter would say that she thought she had more money than she had left in her room, little things like not being able to find her lipsticks.

“Then the person who initially recommended her to us, approached us and said he had evidence of Gloria stealing cash from his family home.

“After contacting the police we set up our own CCTV surveillance at home, in various rooms before Gloria’s next visit.

“We couldn’t believe our eyes.

“We had footage of her searching through all our personal belongings upstairs and downstairs.

“The worst part of all was seeing her stealing money from our daughter’s purse and hand bag, even going through her underwear drawers.”

They added: “Any parent would be sickened by this behaviour.

“She was also seen stealing cash from other areas of the house, checking lottery tickets for winning numbers, even reading personal letters.

“After checking through the house, we also realised that an antique gold necklace had been stolen, which was a gift from Andrea’s parents and held sentimental value.

“We trusted Gloria with the keys to our home, she abused our trust and has shown no remorse for her actions.”

  • CCTV footage which was used as evidence in court will be uploaded to the Gazette website over the coming days