A CARER fleeced her employer out of more than £20,000 because she wanted to escape an abusive relationship, a court heard.

Tina Kewell had been employed part-time by Angus Vick to look after his mother in Steyning. But after her own ex-husband had to go off work from a hip operation, she was left subject to his abuse, it was claimed.

Lewes Crown Court heard how Kewell, now of an address in Crawley, used Mr Vick’s chequebook to pay herself £20,000 between May and July last year.

She admitted one count of fraud by abuse of position.

Kewell, 46, started by using Mr Vick’s cheque book, taking sums for her own ends between May and July last year. Mr Vick realised stubs were missing from his chequebook.

He believed that Kewell meddled with his post to hide his bank statements from him.

Sophie Evans, prosecuting, said the offences represented fraud by abuse of a position of trust or responsibility.

But Gregory Fishwick, defending, said Kewell had wanted to escape her plight at the hands of an abusive and alcoholic husband.

He said: “She was in a relationship with a man for over nine years, and although it was always a troubling relationship when that man drank, they both worked. The defendant thought she could deal with it, but then her husband required hip surgery, an operation which caused him to be at their address all day. There was alcohol and medication, therefore he was frequently abusive. She did suffer at his hands, and the abuse happened in front of her child. She wanted to take every opportunity she could to get away from the man abusing her. The defendant was in a low paid job and was paying all the bills while her husband was off work. It destroyed her credit rating. She took sums in the hope of finding a property for herself in order to pay a large six-month deposit.”

Mr Gregory said a non-molestation order was put in place against Kewell’s ex, and she was taken away to a place of safety.

Judge Stephen Mooney said: “It’s tragic to see a lady with no history of offending before the Crown Court charged with the commission of a very mean and unpleasant offence.

“You were trusted to have access to the financial affairs o f Mr Vick and he was entitled to that trust being maintained. You decided to treat his money as your own.In some part you tried to free yourself from this abusive relationship, but you went about it in wholly the wrong way.”

The judge gave Kewell an eight-month suspended sentence. She was ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid community service and complete 20 rehabilitation sessions.