A CLEANER who stole nearly £15,000 worth of jewellery and valuables from the Hampshire family who employed her for three years has walked free from court – and kept her job.

Katarzyna Nowakowska was trusted by the people who allowed her into their Chilworth home, not realising she was secretly responsible for dozens of items going missing.

The 26-year-old, of Middle Road, Sholing, Southampton, was initially employed by the family through city-based agency Cleanfresh, but they liked her so much that they took her on directly.

But suspicions were raised when cash and other items disappeared, and on September 15 they set a trap for the cleaner, leaving £200 in £50 notes in a bedroom drawer.

When they noticed the envelope containing the money had been tampered with, they challenged Nowakowska.

Although she initially denied any knowledge of the cash, she then admitted taking £50 and police were called.

While officers were at the property, the cleaner went to the bathroom, which was later searched and found to contain the marked note, as well as a bag containing a Blackberry mobile phone, two pairs of earrings and a bracelet.

Police searched Nowakowska’s home, and discovered property worth £14,570 belonging to the family in her bedroom.

Southampton Crown Court heard the Polish national had moved to England in 2008 and become an “integral part of the community”, embracing life in her adopted country and working hard.

But she was said to have struggled financially, and had fallen victim to temptation at seeing how a wealthy family live.

Judge Derwin Hope heard Nowakowska had no previous convictions and is so valued by Cleanfresh that the firm has kept her on, although only working in its offices.

After she admitted two charges of theft, the judge told her she had betrayed a “high degree of trust” that the family had placed in her over a long period of time.

But he said hers was a “curious case” because Nowakowska had not sold any of the items she stole, which have now been returned to their owners.

He said: “In spite of all that you’ve done, the cleaning company is so impressed with you that they’re prepared to employ you.

“This matter is serious, but your remorse is genuine.”

Judge Hope sentenced her to 12 months in prison, but suspended the term for 18 months.

He ordered Nowakowska to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work, pay £50 compensation and £100 costs.