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Headteacher bought leather reindeer with school cash, fraud trial hears

By Annabal Bagdi | Smethwick | Crime | Published:

A headteacher embroiled in a fraud inquiry plundered school cash to buy a collection of “antiques” including a leather reindeer, jurors have heard.

Michelle Hollingsworth was the headteacher at Annie Lennard Primary School

Prosecutors allege Michelle Hollingsworth dipped into funds at Smethwick’s Annie Lennard Primary to finance her string of extravagant shopping sprees, along with co-accused Deborah Jones, 57.

But the 55-year-old claimed her expensive purchases were only for the school and accused prosecutor Mr Mark Jackson of "completely cofusing the issue".

During cross-examination, Hollingsworth said: “I have always done things like that for the school.

"Even though I was a school teacher, I was going out and buying things for the school.”

The two women allegedly bought handbags, shoes, designer clothes and furniture with the school's money while covering the scam with bogus purchase orders claiming the goods were educational.

Michelle Hollingsworth

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard “several thousands” was spent at one store named Chic Interiors, with Hollingsworth admitting she purchased a desk, bar stools and a leather reindeer.

The reindeer head was an “artefact” kept at the school under the stairs with other items unless used during teaching, Hollingsworth claimed on Friday.

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She admitted buying other items including s £350 cupboard for the school’s nursery, a £1,150 storage unit and a £795 office table but claimed not all of the purchases were antiques as suggested.

The school is in Smethwick

Jurors were also told the former teacher, who was suspended in 2015, bought paving stones which she said she "randomly placed on the grass" at the school in 2013.

But extension work at the school, in The Oval, means the paving stones are no longer there, she claimed.

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More from the trial:

Hollingsworth, of Hatherton Park, Cannock, added: "I knew how [many paving stones] to buy because I measured it.

"I put it down myself. It was just random pieces of stone, not with cement."

Jones, of Barrs Road, Cradley Heath, admits conspiring with the head teacher to defraud Sandwell Council and the school but denies further conspiracies alleged to have taken place with other people during the five year fraud.

Hollingsworth denies conspiring with Jones and all the other charges brought against her.

The case continues.

Annabal Bagdi

By Annabal Bagdi
@AnnabalB_Star

Senior reporter based at head office in Wolverhampton. Get in touch on 01902 319 229 or at annabal.bagdi@expressandstar.co.uk

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