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Husband of headteacher 'knew nothing', school fraud trial hears

By Annabal Bagdi | Smethwick | News | Published:

The husband of a headteacher at the centre of a school scam has claimed he knew nothing of the alleged racket.

Joseph Hollingsworth

Joseph Hollingsworth told jurors he was "never there" when wife Michelle Hollingsworth used school cheques with bogus purchase orders to allegedly fund her shopping sprees.

The builder maintained he "never went into" Smethwick's Annie Lennard Primary and insisted items bought did not end up in his home, as suggested by prosecutor Mr Mark Jackson.

The school is in Smethwick

Giving evidence on Thursday, he said: "I was never there at any of these shops when things were purchased for the school.

"Annie Lennard Primary has got nothing to do with me."

Prosecutors allege Michelle Hollingsworth and secretary Deborah Jones systematically syphoned cash between 2010 and 2015 by using the school’s cheques and fake purchase orders.

They are thought to have spent thousands of the school's cash on a string of boutique shopping trips buying handbags, shoes and furniture, the court was told.

The pair, who were suspended from the school in 2015, claimed the goods were educational.

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Joseph Hollingsworth told Wolverhampton Crown Court he could recall just one occasion when he collected a box of goods from a Shrewsbury shop with his wife.

There were no other times when he used his white van to collect items bought by his wife for school in The Oval, jurors heard.

More from the trial:

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The 58-year-old, of Hatherton Park, Cannock, added: "I don't recall all of the shops. When I met my wife, I didn't know whether or not she was buying things for herself or the school.

"I didn't question what she had in bags. I'm not involved in anything.

"I was not there when things were being bought for the school.

"If I have gone out with my wife, why am I being accused of doing something wrong?"

Michelle Hollingsworth (left) and Deborah Jones (right)

Joseph Hollingsworth denies assisting his wife to purchase, collect and transport goods which had been obtained through fraud, and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Jones, of Barrs Road, Cradley Heath, admits conspiring with the headteacher to defraud the school and Sandwell Council but denies all other charges.

Michelle Hollingsworth, of Hatherton Park, Cannock, denies conspiring with Jones or anybody else to defraud and also denies attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The trial 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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