A dishonest health centre worker has admitted taking thousands of pounds from a petty cash box at an Aberdeen surgery.
Medical secretary Fiona Forsyth originally denied taking the cash while working at Peterculter Medical Practice – but her trial was halted at Aberdeen Sheriff Court yesterday when she changed her plea and admitted the offence.
The 42-year-old had denied embezzling £25,067 between 2009 and 2017 – but now admits embezzling £8,040 between 2015 and 2017.
Forsyth – whose address was given as Dalmaik Terrace, Peterculter – offered no comment to the Evening Express outside court yesterday.
We reported in December how a trial had got under way in which it was revealed Forsyth was caught out because of a carton of milk.
Practice manager Christine Dowall turned detective in January 2017 after going to the petty cash box for money for some milk and discovering more than £100 missing.
It was Forsyth’s job to ensure cash going in and out of the box was recorded on a spreadsheet.
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When funds fell low, Forsyth would ask Ms Dowall to put in more cash from the practice’s bank account.
Ms Dowall told the court she had put in £200 in December 2016, but only £60 was left a month later.
“I instantly knew something was wrong. The money didn’t add up,” she added.
After studying record-keeping books and finding other inconsistencies, Ms Dowall confronted Forsyth, who tried to brush off one of the consistencies as an anomaly.
After having a weekend to think about the allegations in early February 2017, Forsyth handed an envelope to a friend, who delivered it to Ms Dowall.
A letter in the envelope, read out in court, said: “I got myself into such a mess. Over the last year at work, I’ve lost it. I didn’t know what to do. I’ve let you all down.”
The envelope also contained £2,500 in £50 notes. Forsyth resigned by email the same day.
Practice managers spent weeks auditing the centre’s accounts and the matter was reported to police, before Forsyth was charged with embezzlement.
During the trial, defence counsel Paul Barnett suggested the lack of security measures meant anyone could have taken the cash.
He asked Ms Dowall: “Is it right that Mrs Forsyth couldn’t have been expected to keep track of that? It would have been easy for someone to take money out of the box and not leave a note, leaving a deficit.”
Ms Dowall answered: “Yes.”
However, as the trial was about to resume, the court was told Forsyth wished to change her plea to guilty.
Sheriff Ian Wallace adjourned the case until February 6 for sentencing, to allow for a criminal justice social work report to be written.
During the trial, Ms Dowall told the court the practice’s financial policies had been “tightened up significantly” to ensure there could be no repeat.
After the hearing, a spokesman for Aberdeen Health and Social Care Partnership said the practice did not wish to comment.