A COUPLE from a village helped themselves to around £78,000 while running a Shropshire social club, a court heard,

Graeme and Julie Fidler, of Pickhill, Burlton, used the monies for holidays and to clear their debts.

At Shrewsbury Crown Court this week 51-year-old Fidler was jailed for two years for his role in the fraud.

The couple had admitted pocketing the money while working at the Harlescott Social Club in Shrewsbury.

Fidler, who was the steward, and 39-year-old Julie Fidler, who was involved in secretarial duties, had previously run pubs.

Julie Fidler was given a 12-month community order and must complete a rehabilitation programme.

The court heard she admitted her role on the basis that she took responsibility for laundering nearly £13,000 suspecting that the money had been obtained illegally.

Charges of concealing criminal property and transferring criminal monies against the two defendants were ordered to lie on file

The court heard that the couple used the cash to repay debts and to pay for dream breaks, including a £4,700 trip to Florida.

Bernard Linneman, prosecuting, said Graeme Fidler had been the steward at the social club between 2012 to 2016.

He said it was Fidler's responsibility to bank the takings after being counted by the staff in his presence then recorded and put in the safe.

Mr Linneman said concerns were raised in April 2016 when staff noticed the bank balance was not what it should have been. An investigation showed a significant shortfall.

“They decided to wait until an annual statement was prepared and for a tax adviser to check the figures. Between April and November there was a shortfall of more than £78,000.

Following further inquiries Graeme Fidler was suspended on November 12 and sacked on December 3 and the police got involved.

It became clear that some of this money had gone into the defendants' joint account or an account of a relative to which Julie Fidler had access.

“They were found to have significant debts and the money was likely used to pay off business rates in relation to a business," said Mr Linneman.

"There was a holiday to Florida paid for with £4,700 dating to October 2016 where a substantial part of that was paid with cash and another holiday had already been booked, which would have cost £8,000, which didn't transpire," he said.

Raglan Ashton, for Graeme Fidler, said his client had sustained a "fall from grace" in the community.

"The fraud was unsophisticated. He made no attempt to hide his tracks to conceal his involvement," he said.