A 56-year-old grandmother with no criminal convictions stole £24,000 worth of mobile phones from her work at Yodel in Oldham claiming she owed money to a loan shark.

Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard Julie Birchenough had worked for the delivery company for ten years and was so trusted she did not have to comply with security checks of other stuff such as going through a scanner before and after shifts.

But in August 2019 it emerged phones were going missing and a covert camera was put into her office.

She was seen heading to her car during a night shift with her arms in an unusual position.

When searched later that day there was nothing found on her, but mobiles were found in the car.

Police also found more devices at her home as well as a notepad indicating which devices she had taken.

Birchenough appeared in court to be sentenced after earlier admitting four counts of theft as a employee with 24 mobile phones taken in total.

Prosecutor Harriet Lavin said: “The total value of the phones was £24,000.

“Yodel will be held fully responsible for the loss, the clients won't be at a loss.”

The court heard Birchenough claims she was being pursued by loan sharks after taking a payday loan.

Representing the woman, now at Tithebarn Street in Poulton-Le-Fylde in Lancashire, defence counsel Mark Fireman offered an explanation.

He said: “When her mother was alive they had a car that was paid for by disability payments.

“When her mother died that went.

“She wanted to get a modest car to assist her.

“She went to the appropriate companies in order to try and take a loan out.

“She was rebuffed.”

He said she took a payday loan of £1,000 from a loan shark and did not understand them.

He added: “This person followed her to where she worked and told her in order to pay it back the money she would have to steal from her employers.

“She didn’t want to.”

He added she had not lived a “high life” or earned any money form the thefts.

He also said she had moved away from the area to escape the loan shark and obtained new work at a fish and chip shop.

But recorder Michael Maher said she had not even produced evidence of the loan in question or the name of the person who provided it, who she says she came across in a newspaper advert.

He rose for ten minutes to consider the sentence.

He later said he accepted she had not lived the “high life” but the notebook gave him “cause for concern.”

The judge suspended a sentence of a year for a period of 18 months, ordered Birchenough to complete 25 rehabilitation requirement activity days and to 80 hours of unpaid work.