A WOMAN who stole more than £130,000 from her parents says she has restarted her life and is now happier and healthier.

Melissa Fordham, now 36, formerly of Hutley Drive, Colchester, took the money to spent on “transient” items.

She was jailed for three years but said she has now transformed her life for the better.

Back in 2010, during the police investigation, Melissa said she wanted to tell her parents what she had done but was afraid of the disappointment and rejection it would bring.

“I wanted to tell them I was sorry,” she said.

“I’ve wanted to say that for a long time and I wanted to try and repair what I’ve done.

“There were various times throughout the ten years we had been apart that I would see my parents driving through Colchester.

“It was difficult because I never got that closure. I’m just thankful they’re back in my life. They have been a rock."

Melissa said the effects of childhood bullying, spending addiction and marriage at 22 contributed to her downward spiral.

She said: “I was trying to keep up with the Joneses, I suppose.

“You know how alcoholics and drug users take stuff to get that high? For me, spending that money and having that nice, shiny object was exactly the same as them taking a pill.

“There was obviously something missing in my life. I knew I wasn’t happy but I had nowhere else to go once my parents left.”

She added: “People have these horror stories about prison but, for me, it was the best thing.

“In terms of processing it as a family, it’s just been the three of us as the rest of the family has cut ties.

“They don’t regret their decision and I am just ever so thankful that they did what they did.”

Melissa was jailed in November 2017 and released a year later.

People have these horror stories about prison but, for me, it was the best thing.

While at East Sutton Park Prison she received mental health counselling.

She now works with a teaching company in London and lives a happier life with her new partner, Andy, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

“I teach further education but even if I did teach primary or secondary, it wouldn’t bar me from teaching because my qualification and my offence are not seen as a safeguarding concern,” she said.

Melissa has also taken up fishing as a hobby which has proven a real success.

Gazette: Melissa Fordham with her new partner Andy Bungay with their catchesMelissa Fordham with her new partner Andy Bungay with their catches

She has been featured in publications such as the Angling Times and she is sponsored by a bait and tackle business.

She said: “My partner took me fishing about 19 months ago and his daughter and I tied a hook to a piece of fishing wire to see what we could get.

“He was like ‘You’re never going to get anything with that’ but we actually got a nice sized carp.

“I love it. It so good for the mental health. He’s taught me everything I know.”

Melissa added: “Whereas before I would follow the crowd, I’m not doing that now – I’m just being me.

“For the first time in a long time, I feel happy.”