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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
Head denies stealing school funds

A head teacher has appeared in court accused of stealing thousands of pounds from her school to pay for a lavish life-style, including trips on the Orient Express.

Colleen McCabe is charged with stealing from the Roman Catholic St John Rigby College in West Wickham, near Bromley, in Kent.

She is accused together with the school's bursar, Maureen Stapley, of using school funds to pay for foreign holidays, expensive meals and theatre tickets as well as presents for relatives.

Both women deny the charges in a case which is expected to last eight weeks at London's Southwark Crown Court.

Prosecutor Stephen Wilcken said a conservative estimate was that the women took between 250,000 and 500,000, squandering school funds "on a massive scale" over four years.

"There were expensive dinners at quality restaurants and there were trips to the theatre in the West End of London," he said.

"Designer clothes were bought and substantial amounts were spent on very expensive jewellery and the like, including 2,000 for a diamond and gold bracelet for McCabe's mother."

Suspicious

Among the other items allegedly paid for with school credit cards were designer sunglasses, Gucci watches, trips on the Orient Express and a Crystal Palace season ticket for the use of a former governor.

The prosecution says the alleged fraud came to light after government legislation restored voluntary status to St John Rigby College.

The change meant funding once again came from the local education authority - Bromley - rather than central government.

The council became suspicious after the school failed to respond to an invitation to meet its auditors and began investigations.

The case continues.





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