A GRIEVING mother was taken advantage of when one of her best friends stole from her when she was at the lowest ebb in her life, a court heard.
Marion Kyte says the theft and fraud was at a time when she trying to come to terms with the death of her son made her ill.
The stress of it all had set her recovery back and she now found it very difficult to trust people, Mrs Kyte told a court.
Her friend and former employee Claire Jane Phillips, of Hamilton Road in Connah’s Quay, initially pleaded not guilty but then admitted three fraud charges and a theft during her trial.
The Face It Beauty Salon at the Daniel Owen Centre in Mold was run by Mrs Kyte, 58, of Ruthin, and Phillips, 39, was initially employed as a beauty therapist.
She left to raise her family, then the mother of three returned to work there and they had discussions about Phillips taking over the business.
Tragically, on November 20, 2011, Gavin Kyte, 33, the son of Marion Kyte and her retired police inspector husband, Neil, was found hanged at their home in Pentrecelyn.
An open verdict was later recorded on the former soldier, who had served in Bosnia, Kosovo, Germany and Canada after a coroner said he could not be sure the father-of-three intended to take his own life.
Flintshire Magistrates Court at Mold heard how that clearly had a devastating effect on Mrs Kyte.
But Phillips had been very supportive and it was agreed she should take over the business on an informal basis until the legal paper work was sorted out.
She installed her own card machine and took all the takings.
Mrs Kyte described it as “a very good and profitable business” which her friend was taking over without any money being paid up front.
A figure of £70,000 was agreed – £10,000 from her first year’s profits, and then £20,000 a year for the following three years.
The lease was still in Mrs Kyte’s name and she paid two lots of £6,000 quarterly rent, but Phillips’ cheques to repay her bounced.
Correspondence addressed to Mrs Kyte, including bank statements, were hidden behind a toilet and her company debit card had been used without her knowledge.
The card number and security code had been obtained in some way.
Prosecutor Peter Humphrey-Jones said that on the day, two of the transactions were carried out by phone, the internal CCTV had been switched off.
Mrs Kyte’s NVQ certificate had also been used to order certain products which would only be supplied to a qualified person.
Brian Cross, defending, initially claimed Phillips had not taken over the business and had been given consent by Mrs Kyte to use the business card in emergencies in her absence. But Phillips then admitted the three frauds and stealing the letters between December 2011 and June 2012.
Mrs Kyte told the court that returning home to find her son had died was “the worst time of my life”.
She said: “I wanted to die myself. It was terrible. He was my son and I loved him so much.
“He was my world; everything that I knew was safe just exploded.”
Phillips had been very supportive and said she would look after everything.
She had known Phillips for 10 years, had employed her twice, and considered her to be a close friend. “I trusted her,” she said.
The stress had set her recovery back and had delayed her coming off anti-depressants prescribed after her son’s death.
Mr Cross said Phillips was ill-equipped to run the business, got into financial difficulties, and it was naivete not greed which led to the offences.
Phillips, who had no previous convictions, was placed on a 12 month community order with 240 hours of unpaid work and a three month tagged curfew between 8pm and 7am.
She must pay £3,335 compensation at £15 a week.
A further charge of stealing more than 20 towels and business contacts books was dropped by the prosecution.
A GRIEVING mum has spoken of her distress after one of her friends took advantage of her when she was at the lowest ebb in her life.
Marion Kyte’s friend and former employee Claire Jane Phillips, of Hamilton Road in Connah’s Quay, admitted three fraud charges and a theft.
Ms Phillips, 39, had taken over the running of Mrs Kyte’s beauty salon after the death of Mrs Kyte’s son.
Speaking after the sentencing, Mrs Kyte, a former nurse from Ruthin, said discovering Ms Phillips had deceived her nearly pushed her over the edge.
“It was horrendous,” she said. “How could someone do that? I just couldn’t comprehend it. I still can’t. I trusted her.
“When my son died, I didn’t have the will to live.
“I tried to go in to work but I just felt physically sick. Sometimes I felt my head would explode.
“My whole life had been turned upside down.”
When arrangments were made for Phillips to take over the salon, Mrs Kyte said: “It seemed perfect. I’ve known her for eight years and we’d become really good friends.
“And I didn’t ask for anything up front. I gave her everything. All the equipment and stock.
“I was still paying the rent and I didn’t ask her to pay anything up front.
“She was going to pay me back from takings over three years.
“She could have made a really good go of it.”
Mrs Kyte said if it hadn’t been for her sister Carol Hughes she wouldn’t have been able to cope.
“Carol’s been a Godsend,” she said.
Mrs Hughes and her husband redecorated the salon before Mrs Kyte returned and it was like “walking into a new salon” said Mrs Kyte.
And the name of the shop was changed to remove all connection with what had happened.
Mrs Kyte said: “My family is everything to me. Money doesn’t matter.
“With my son dying and now this – the way people have helped me, even complete strangers – it’s really brought it home to me. It’s changed my view of life.”