Bank manager cleared of £1m theft

A former junior bank manager was yesterday cleared of stealing nearly £1m from a high street bank after a jury accepted that her violent boyfriend frightened her into taking the money.

Ania Wadsworth, 28, of Archway, north London, admitted stealing £921,716.95 from Lloyds TSB in Golders Green, north London, between 2002 and 2007. The court heard her boyfriend Keith "Junior" Preddie, 20, of Romford, Essex, would beat her up if she did not come home with the money he had demanded. He spent the money on BMW cars, holidays, his £500-a-day crack habit and a failed music business. Preddie was found guilty of laundering £145,370.

The Old Bailey was told that Ms Wadsworth began taking amounts as small as £30 when she first started work but her thieving escalated to walking out of the branch at Golders Green, north London, with bundles of £25,000, stolen while she was loading cash machines.

But none of the missing money was traced to her and she had been living modestly. An expert on domestic abuse said Ms Wadsworth showed signs of battered woman syndrome and "learned helplessness". She had been with Preddie since she was 16 and told the court that she lived in fear of violence from Preddie and believed he would kill her or her family if she did not bring cash home. Even after they split, three years before she was arrested, he continued to demand money, the court heard.

Following a nationwide audit, Ms Wadsworth was arrested in March 2007. Detective Sergeant Suzanne Ferris, of City of London Police, said outside court: "We found no evidence in her finances to show she had any gain."