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Man, 28, jailed for stealing thousands from a North Somerset business

Custody image of butcher thief Michael Vowles

A 28-year-old man has been jailed for 12 months after admitting to defrauding thousands of pounds from a butchers near Weston-super-Mare.

Michael Vowles, of Avonmouth Road in Bristol, pleaded guilty to three offences, including:

  • Fraud by abuse of position
  • Fraud by false representation
  • Theft

Vowles is a qualified butcher who was employed as a manager by Frances Bird, the owner of Worle Moor Butchers in Worle’s High Street, in August 2017.

The victim first noticed Vowles actions when the cashflow into the business account from sales did not match the money being spent on produce.

When she challenged Vowles on the matter in June 2018, the defendant walked out and did not return.

In the year Vowles worked for the victim, he pocketed the money in a range of different ways. Before the butchers had opened, Vowles had started to buy meat from suppliers using the business’ cash and sold it on and took the profit. He also duped the victim into paying him for equipment already purchased by the business, which he then pocketed.

Once the butchers opened, the defendant then proceeded to alter the books and officers discovered he had taken more than £14,000. This is on top of the approximate £2,000 he had already stolen from the business.

When he left the business, he also attempted to throw away the cash books to hide his crimes but this key piece of evidence was found by the victim.

In a victim impact statement, Ms Bird said: “Our life has been changed beyond repair and brought us to the point of personal insolvency. As a result of the financial loss to the business, we have been unable to recover our investment and have finally had to the sell the business.

“We sold assets and got our other company into debt to cover bills in Worle Moor Butchers. This caused immeasurable emotional and mental stress which made us ill.”

Vowles was sentenced today (Wednesday 29 June) at Bristol Crown Court.

The officer in charge of the investigation Detective Constable Ross Chambers said: “To break the trust of an employee is such a terrible way is unforgivable and it has had a monumental impact on the victim and her family.

“The victim has had to pay out half of her pension investment to cover the losses to the business, caused by Vowles’ actions.

“He did not think twice about taking that money and the implications it would have for the business owner. I hope this is a lesson learned and the victim and their family get some justice in today’s sentencing.”

If you are a victim of fraud, or see a scam, report it to Action Fraud online 24/7 or on 0300 123 2040 weekdays between 8am-8pm.