Banknote thieves told to repay pounds 1/2 m: Families' extravagant lifestyle ends with court order to give up ill-gotten gains. Ian MacKinnon reports

THREE families who stole banknotes due for destruction at a Bank of England incineration plant were yesterday ordered to repay more than pounds 500,000 by the High Court.

The couples, who led a 'life of Riley' way beyond their means, stole the money in pounds 20 and pounds 50 notes over a four-year period from the plant at Loughton, in Essex, where some of them worked.

One of the defendants, Christine Gibson, 44, described as the prime mover in the ingenious pounds 600,000 theft, left the depot with the notes stuffed in her bra and knickers.

All escaped criminal prosecution because witnesses who gave evidence in the High Court were not prepared to talk to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service was unable to prosecute on the basis of their extravagant lifestyle alone.

However, in an unusual move, the Bank of England cited their high living and sued for the return of the money with interest, seeking damages for breach of contract.

In a reserved judgment, Judge Norman Rudd, said that with regard to the families' explanation for their wealth, 'taken separately or together, the story is simply unbelievable', and held that they 'stole from the Bank of England'.

He also ordered the families, in addition to repaying their share of the stolen money, each to pay one- third of the costs of the case, unofficially estimated at pounds 250,000.

Mrs Gibson, of Loughton, Essex, and her husband Peter, 47, were ordered to return pounds 250,000. The judge also ruled Kenneth Longman, 34, and his wife Janet, should return pounds 150,000, and Michael Nairne, 39, and his wife Sharon, 36, all from Loughton, pounds 110,000. Judgment was stayed for 28 days pending appeal.

The court was told that the old notes were kept in cages with two padlocks, one black, one white. Mrs Gibson had the key for the black locks and someone else the white. But sometimes she was able to switch the white lock for another black one painted white which enabled her to open both locks. She and Mr Nairne would remove some cash while another employee, Kevin Winwright, who was jailed for a year after he admitted stealing pounds 170,000, distracted guards.

Between 1988 and 1992, the Gibsons allegedly spent pounds 317,000 more than they earned. Their extravagant lifestyle finally came to the attention of police when Mr Gibson went into the Ilford office of the Reliance Mutual Insurance Society and emptied pounds 100,000 in bundles of pounds 20 and pounds 50 notes from a carrier bag.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Nairne deposited another pounds 30,000, again in pounds 20 and pounds 50 notes, at the Reliance office. He claimed the cash had been found in a carrier bag behind a cooker at his late father's flat.

Anthony Boswood, QC, for the bank, told the court: 'There is an extraordinary Essex flavour about this case. These three families have been living the life of Riley, wildly above any conceivable legitimate means they could have earned.'

Yesterday, the judge agreed and rejected their explanations for their wealth as 'wholly incredible and totally unsupported' by the evidence.

A bank spokesman said: 'We are satisfied with the outcome of the case, but we are disappointed that it was necessary to bring it. Once the theft had occurred it was important that we recover the funds.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture