A MANAGER stole more than £5,000 from a Cancer Research UK shop to “pay debts and have the odd night out”, before fleeing to Turkey to evade justice for over five years.

Swansea Crown Court heard that Lorreine Kucuk was the manager of the Cancer Research UK shop in Tenby in 2017. Part of her role was to bank the shop’s takings each day.

Prosecutor Dean Pulling told the court that checks by the charity’s finance team in early May 2017 flagged up that the Tenby store hadn’t banked any money for 22 days between April and May.

Receipts showed that the shop had taken £5,238.41 during that period.

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“The defendant initially stated that the money had been deposited late,” Mr Pulling said.

Kucuk went in to work the next day, but on May 9 she went home claiming to be sick. She never returned to the shop after that.

After she was unable to prove that the money had been banked, she told her bosses that she had given the money to a flatmate who had then “disappeared”. She asked for time to regain the money and begged them not to call the police, however the police were called and Kucuk was arrested on May 15.

In interview, she admitted taking the money.

She told the police she was “borrowing” it to “pay debts and have the odd night out”. Mr Pulling added that some of the debts included paying off parking fines.

Kucuk, who has three previous offences on her record, was before Llanelli Magistrates’ Court in September 2018, and appeared at Swansea Crown Court the following month – after which it was indicated that she would plead guilty to theft by an employee.

However, when her plea and sentence hearing was due to take place, her barrister was told that she was in Turkey and had been unable to return as she had been involved in a crash.

Stuart John, defending, said that Kucuk’s time in Turkey had been “somewhat of a purgatory” after her passport ran out in 2020. He said she was only able to return home this year with the help of friends and the British Embassy.

“She not only fully accepts the dishonesty but has had a not insubstantial time to reflect on it,” he said.

“She is genuinely remorseful.”

He added that she fully accepted the delay in the case coming before the court was of her own doing, and that she “does want to make amends”.

On her previous appearance in court, Judge Paul Thomas KC jailed Kucuk for 10 weeks for breaching her bail.

He said she had “deliberately absconded to Turkey” despite knowing that she faced “a serious criminal charge”.

Sentencing her, Judge Huw Rees told Kucuk that she had “committed a despicable act of theft”.

“There cannot be an example of more mean offending against a charity,” he said.

Kucuk, now 48 and of Holloway Court in Tenby, was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years. She must complete 200 hours of unpaid work and 25 rehabilitation activity requirement.