A cleaner stole precious jewellery and family heirlooms from her trusting client who was “horrified” to discover she had been betrayed by a woman she trusted.
Kerry Ann Moynihan, 46, who has a record for fraud and thievery, was trusted to be left alone in the York home of a professional, middle-aged couple who had just welcomed a new baby boy into the world, York Magistrates’ Court heard.
Prosecutor Joel Wootten said that the female victim, who was named in court, had returned from a short walk with her baby to find her jewellery boxes had been emptied.
Her gold necklaces, bracelets, wedding and engagement rings and an ornate link watch bequeathed to her by her late grandmother had gone missing from the upstairs marital bedroom, along with £20 cash.
Given that Moynihan was the only non-family member who had been in the house at that time, and her unedifying record, she was duly arrested on suspicion of theft.
She was charged with stealing items including jewellery, a watch, a baby hat and cash worth over £3,200. The items included a necklace which the female victim’s parents had gifted her for her 30th birthday which she intended to pass on to her own children.
She said she “burst into tears” when she discovered that the jewellery box was empty and that the watch that she had inherited from her grandma was “extremely sentimental” and the fact that it had likely been cashed in by Moynihan was “heartbreaking”.
Searched her flat
Moynihan, of Butcher Terrace, York, admitted theft but on the basis that she only stole the watch.
The Crown Prosecution Service didn’t accept this basis of plea and a Newton hearing, or trial of issue, was held yesterday (Wednesday, 7 February) to determine Moynihan’s level of culpability and the extent of the thefts, which occurred between 17 February and 25 April, 2022.
A trial of issue is held when a defendant partially accepts their guilt but denies certain aspects of the charge which could have a significant effect upon the severity of sentence.
Prosecuting barrister Mr Wootten said Moynihan was arrested in May 2022 after police searched her flat near Rowntree Park and found the gold link watch.
None of the other stolen jewellery and other items were ever recovered and the suspicion was that Moynihan had sold them on.
During police questioning, Moynihan said she “hadn’t touched anything” inside the house and even denied stealing the watch initially, claiming she had bought the timepiece at a car-boot sale “many years ago”.
She told officers she had a “good relationship” with the family and “couldn’t understand why they had accused her of stealing from them”.
She said she had worked as a self-employed cleaner for years and that she had never gone upstairs at the property. She also claimed she had never been accused of stealing before, never mind convicted of thefts, and maintained this lie in court until her record was revealed to magistrates.
The female victim told the court that she and her husband had “given (Moynihan) every kindness” while she helped them out at their home.
Mr Wootten said that Moynihan had “gone snooping” inside the couple’s bedroom where she stole the wedding and engagement rings from the bedside table and other jewellery from the ring-box stack.
Moynihan later admitted stealing the bequeathed watch at a time when her “head was all over the place” following a family bereavement.
During cross-examination, Mr Wootten put it to Moynihan that the watch had been recovered because it was “the only (stolen item) that wasn’t worth anything” and that she had sold the rest. She denied this.
In a statement read out in court, the victim said she would “never forget the feeling I had in the pit of my stomach” when she realised her most precious possessions had been stolen just at the time when she had become a first-time mum.
She described the thefts as “the lowest of the low” which occurred at a particularly “emotional and stressful” time for the family.
She said she felt “violated in my own home” and described her ordeal as “horrifying” which she “wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy”.
“It breaks my heart to think that someone else is wearing my rings and my chain,” she added.
Defence barrister Andrew Pickin said that Moynihan was “adamant” that she had only stolen the watch.
The court heard that Moynihan had 22 previous offences on her 20-year criminal record including theft from a dwelling, fraud and drugs possession.
Richard Goodacre, magistrates’ chairman, said the bench found that Moynihan had stolen not just the watch, which was “of particularly sentimental value (to the victim)”, but all the jewellery.
He said the thefts had caused “significant harm”, both “emotionally and financially”, to the victim and her husband.
He said the offence was so serious that it was beyond the powers of magistrates to sentence Moynihan who would be dealt with at the crown court. Moynihan will be sentenced at York Crown Court on 28 February. She was released on bail until then.