A Wirral sub-post master's wife has been convicted of stealing almost £46,500 by a Liverpool Crown Court jury.

Elizabeth Roberts was last week found guilty by a majority decision of 11-1 of 53 theft charges spanning just over a year while she was working at Central Park sub-post office in Liscard, Wallasey. Roberts, of Queensway, Wallasey, was further remanded on bail for sentence on March 31.

During her trial John Gibson, prosecuting, alleged that 48-year-old Roberts deliberately over-stated the number of pension and allowance vouchers paid out at the post office.

"The pattern is so consistent that it cannot be anything other than deliberate deception," he told the jury.

Roberts had pleaded not guilty to all the charges, involving £46,433, which occurred between October 23 and November 1997.

Roberts said that six months after she and husband William took over the business in 1995 they began having problems as they held a lot of stock and were using calculators and till rolls. When they transferred to computers they had more problems and were in a 'most dreadful mess'.

The business had an average weekly turnover of £250,000. Benefit money was collected from books that were stamped, and the counterfoils counted and entered into the computer.

When post office investigation officers arrived to carry out an audit in November 1997 it was discovered that she had already completed her paperwork and had allegedly overstated the amount by £743.

Investigators checked the post office waste bin and found torn-up computer print-outs which showed fewer vouchers received than the print-out intended for submission.

When questioned by the officers, Roberts said that she alone was responsible for using the computer and she could not understand why there had been these over-statements of vouchers.

She told them that she might have sub-consciously inflated the number of vouchers.

Asked by her barrister Peter Davies what she meant, Roberts said she did not know. "I had been bombarded with questions. They had me almost convinced that I had been doing something wrong.

"I couldn't think of any sane reason for it. I certainly did not do what they are alleging," she said. Roberts added that the room where the counterfoils were counted and stored was accessible to all staff and it was possible some counterfoils were counted twice.

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