Hucknall customer adviser jailed after stealing £26,500 from vulnerable pensioners

A customer adviser at a building society in Hucknall stole thousands of pounds from the accounts of two women pensioners has been jailed for 12 months.

Shamed mother-of-two Diane Murfin (46), of Lingford Street, Hucknall, pleaded guilty at Nottingham Crown Court to the theft of £26,500 belonging to her employer, Nottingham Building Society.

She raided the accounts of 71-year-old widow Pamela Phillips and 77-year-old Patricia Jackson, described as well-off but vulnerable.

Murfin admitted making several fraudulent transactions and cash withdrawals over a period of 21 months between September 2011 and May 2013 at The Nottingham’s branch on High Street, Hucknall.

Initially, she stole money to fund a care bill for her mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, the court heard.

But later, she stole to help her two children by funding a wedding and to pay off a catalogue bill.

Withdrawals were made at Christmas time, near to Valentine’s Day and close to the time of Murfin’s birthday on 21st April, said Gareth Gimson (prosecuting).

And she was only caught, in May last year, when a £9,000 payment into the account of her mother, a Mrs Cotterill, was spotted, frozen and recovered.

“Were it not for this discovery, these matters might have gone unnoticed,” said Gregor Purcell (defending).

The court was told that Murfin, who has since been sacked, was employed by The Nottingham for 15 years.

Mr Gimson explained that Mrs Phillips and Mrs Jackson “were not ladies without means”. Their accounts contained tens of thousands of pounds.

Mrs Phillips visited the Hucknall branch of the building society regularly after the death of her husband, Alf -- and regularly saw Mrs Murfin.

“She says she was always welcomed warmly by Mrs Murfin’s smiling face,” said Mr Gimson. “She felt Mrs Murfin had her best interests at heart and she trusted her implicitly.

“Mrs Phillips regularly discussed her account with Mrs Murfin. But significantly, Mrs Murfin knew that Mrs Phillips was not a regular user of the account. Money would sit there for long periods.

“Looking back, Mrs Phillips felt she was vulnerable because of the loss of her husband, who used to handle most of their financial transactions. She now blames herself for not paying more attention.”

Mr Gimson said Mrs Jackson was also a regular user of the Hucknall branch of The Nottingham -- “but had no personal knowledge of or relationship with Mrs Murfin until December 2012”.

“However, she was then asked to go into the branch to upgrade her account, and she handed Mrs Murfin her passbook,” Mr Gimson explained.

“Mrs Murfin kept the passbook at the branch overnight -- and that is when she got hold of Mrs Jackson’s signature and knowledge of the account.”

Mr Gimson said that when the final attempted theft came to light, investigations were launched by both The Nottingham and the police.

“Almost immediately, they realised that these fraudulent transactions pointed to one person and one person only,” he said. “Mrs Murfin made very candid admissions.

“The monies which were transferred and removed from the accounts of Mrs Phillips and Mrs Jackson were all reimbursed by Nottingham Building Society. This is the company’s policy when customers or clients make any losses in such cases.”