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Special school bursar accused of fraud breaks down at trial in Winchester
A FORMER bursar accused of fraud at a special school in Winchester broke down at her trial, saying a member of the public was accusing her of being a liar.
Linda Whittaker sobbed as she told her counsel: “I’m finding it upsetting that a person behind you is accusing me of being a liar.”
The trial at Winchester Crown Court was suspended for 20 minutes and when it resumed Judge Jane Miller QC addressed the crowded public gallery: “It was the person sitting behind the police officer. Please don’t speak to anyone else or make facial expressions.”
Whittaker, 65, denies two charges of fraud against Osborne Special School in Winchester with the alleged fraud totalling £70,000.
The trial has heard that Whittaker submitted numerous timesheets between 2008 and 2012 for herself and friend Patricia Hickman.
But Whittaker, of Lovedon Lane, Kings Worthy, said the overtime was all genuine and needed to cope with the demands and pressures of the job.
She told the jury that as well as being bursar, the senior finance manager at the school, she was also clerk to the governors.
Officially she was contracted to work 37 hours per week but said she had never seen a document stating the post holder would always work more than 37 hours.
Whittaker said she undertook other roles at the school such as cleaning before an inspection, escorting the children, driving the bus, cleaning up and looking after upset pupils. She always worked more than 37 hours.
She often took work home and went into school at weekends.
At one point she approached the then-head Rod Wakelam. She said: “From the day we moved into Osborne the staffing was cut. My workload was the same but with reduced support.
“It meant I had to work even longer. I told him I couldn’t cope with the long hours. I was working almost a 12-hour day.”
Patricia Hickman came in to help her.
Asked by her counsel David Reid if there was any reason to think she not entitled to make the claims, she said: “Not at all.”
Both Mr Wakelam and from 2008 successor Sonia O’Donnell signed the timesheets and never questioned the hours they were claiming overtime for, she said.
Whittaker said she had had no financial training. “I learnt it on the job.”