Three McColl's shop workers stole thousands in cash from their employer by pretending to put sales through the till.

The three women took cash off customers but then systematically voided or cancelled transactions, a court heard.

Joanna Couglan, Paige Walsh and Jane Smitheach stole more than £1,000 from the convenience store on Portland Street in Southport.

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They were caught out when a senior member of the company noticed that losses at the store were three times higher than expected.

All three went before South Sefton Magistrates Court on Wednesday (October 13) and pleaded guilty to theft by employee, the ECHO reports.

Prosecuting, Angela Blackmore said the scams were uncovered when Mrs Duggin, a risk and compliance manager, was reviewing sales at McColl’s stores over the Easter Bank Holiday period.

Ms Blackmore said: “Her role is to minimise loss to the company.

“After reviewing losses she found significant losses when compared to the previous 12 months.

“She manages a number of stores and knows what the expected loss and this was three times higher.

“She visited on April 4, reviewed staff actions and noted there was a large number of voided or cancelled transaction by three members of staff.”

Police outside the McColl's store on Portland Street, Southport
Police outside the McColl's store on Portland Street, Southport

Ms Blackmore explained this involved staff scanning items on the point of sale system, taking the cash off customers but then not finishing the sale.

The women would then make a note of the amounts involved and take it from the till at a later time.

All three were interviewed at work during a disciplinary process and admitted stealing the money.

According to the charges, the thefts covered a three-week period in March.

Coughlan, 37, of Park Road, Southport, stole £1,026; Walsh, 20, of Green Gates, Huyton, stole £1,080, and Smith, 54, of Roselea Drive, Southport, stole £1,276.

Ms Blackmore told magistrates that the case could be dealt with in either the lower or higher court and that the offence carried a sentence ranging 26 weeks to two years in prison.

Ms Blackmore noted that the loss to the store was actually double the amount stolen when the stock that customers believed they had legitimately bought was factored in.

Heather Tooey, defending Walsh, asked for the case to be adjourned to allow pre-sentencing reports to be prepared.

A sentencing hearing will take place on December 7.

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