Ex-bursar Linda Whittaker convicted of £18K school fraud

Daily Echo: Linda Whittaker, Linda Whittaker,

A FORMER Hampshire bursar is awaiting sentence after she was convicted of fraud at the special needs school where she worked.

Linda Whittaker, 65, swindled Osborne special needs school in Winchester out of £18,000 by paying a colleague for hours she had not worked, the jury ruled.

She was cleared of fraudulently claiming £54,000 for herself but found guilty on the second count.

The nine-man and three-woman jury took more than six hours to arrive at its verdicts yesterday on Whittaker, of Lovedon Lane, Kings Worthy, As bursar she was responsible for a budget of £2m, the court heard, and between 2008 and 2010, had submitted numerous timesheets for herself and for her colleague, Patricia Hickman.

The trial had heard that timesheets between April 2008 and March 2010 had disappeared from the school archive, which Whittaker said she had nothing to do with.

Whittaker had always insisted the overtime was genuine and the court heard she also worked as clerk to the board of governors.

Eventually she approached the thenhead Rod Wakelam and asked for Patricia Hickman to come in and help.

Both Mr Wakelam, and from 2008, his successor Sonia O’Donnell, signed the timesheets and never questioned the hours they were claiming overtime for, said Whittaker in evidence.

Jurors had been told that Ms Hickman stopped working at the school around the same time auditors began checking financial records there, in September 2010.

“It’s not right to say Pat Hickman stopped working because I had been rumbled,” Whittaker said.

Judge Miller said Whittaker must return for sentencing at a date to be fixed in April, pending medical reports. The judge warned Whittaker of the seriousness of the crime.

Osborne School declined to comment yesterday. It is a school funded by the county council for 144 pupils aged between 11 and 19.

The school opened in 2003 following the amalgamation of Lankhills and Greenacres schools for learners with moderate and severe learning difficulties.

Its most recent Ofsted report in 2012 rated it as ‘good’.

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