When bank manager Ian Lumb's overdraft became too big, he stole pounds 100,000 to begin a new life - but though his job was to help others, he could not help himself


An assistant bank manager who stole pounds 94,000 from his branch before embarking on a seven-month odyssey across France was jailed for two years yesterday.

Ian Lumb was given the minimum sentence that could be handed down by Judge Michael Lever QC after a hushed courtroom was told that debt and depression had driven the Nat West employee to the brink of suicide.

While on the run last year, Lumb, 38, who worked at the bank's Deansgate branch in Bolton, Greater Manchester, apparently suffered a nervous breakdown, visiting places and restaurants where he and his wife, Susan, 33, had enjoyed happier times. He sent her and their two daughters photographs, letters, postcards and parcels containing pounds 55,000 from the money he stole.

He was finally persuaded to return to England when, having prepared a suicide cocktail of Pernod and paracetamol at an inn in Nantes, Brittany, he rang home two days before Christmas to hear his wife's voice one more time on the family answering machine. But his daughter Jenni, 13, answered and greeted his silence with the words: "Dad, if that's you, I love you. Don't hang up."

He stayed on the line long enough for Mrs Lumb, who had already received a letter saying he was going to kill himself, to persuade him to go home. After 266 days alone, he returned home on Boxing Day.

Bolton Crown Court was told that Lumb, who earned pounds 19,500 a year but owned a Lancashire home worth pounds 90,000, had run up pounds 130,000 in debts and poor investments without the knowledge of his wife. He had been under pressure for two years and believed he was about to lose his job when his superiors discovered his financial difficulties and told him they were "inappropriate" for a man in his position.

David Friesner, for the prosecution, told the court that on Friday, 13 May last year, as the bank was closing, Lumb took pounds 44,020 from a cash machine and another pounds 50,000, in three canvas bags, from a safe while a colleague was distracted. He had often joked to colleagues that one day he would "clear the bank out" but no one took him seriously.

He left the bank at 5.45pm, drove to Dover and got on a ferry to Calais that had been booked two days earlier. He threw the safe keys into the sea.

Mrs Lumb heard nothing for several months but in July her parents, George and Joan Clegg, were on holiday in the Loire when they discovered a parcel, letter and photographs from Lumb left next to their car. A note attached said: "Please don't open this parcel. It is very personal for my wife and children."

When Mrs Lumb opened it, she found pounds 24,000 in cash, letters, photographs and her husband's wedding, engagement and signet rings.

Over the following months, Mrs Lumb was sent sums of pounds 9,998 and pounds 7,000. The Post Office intercepted another parcel containing pounds 14,000 and Mr Friesner said police accepted that Lumb had posted a further pounds 10,000 to a bank colleague but it had been lost on the way.

The money was accompanied by a desperate paper trail of postcards and snapshots as Lumb re-visited the sites of previous family holidays across France. There was a photograph of a golf course where they had played together; a box of matches from their favourite hotel in Paris; there were letters from La Rochelle, Niort and Canet Plage, where the couple had spent their honeymoon 14 years earlier and from a caravan site on which they had stayed.

One photograph of a restaurant carried the message: "Cleggy [his nickname for his wife from her maiden name], this is where you ate the brain of something. I can't remember. Sheep?"

Another, on a photo of a restaurant in Etaples, said: "I had fish soup again!"

He remembered birthdays and sent Mrs Lumb flowers from Lyon on their wedding anniversary. He also visited La Baule, Nantes, Laval, Le Mans, Rouen, Angers, Avril, Vittel, Monte Carlo and Marseilles.

However, the signs of strain on his mental health were obvious; one card said simply: "Lost in France." Another said: "You're better off without me."

Mrs Lumb travelled to France and discovered that Lumb had spent much time in the lakeside town of Annecy, near Geneva, telling locals he was a divorce and had inherited the money he spent so freely. He became a regular and welcome sight in local bars and made many friends before vanishing again in August.

When he was arrested, Lumb told detectives: "The trouble is if you ask anyone at the bank or the golf club, they probably thought I was the most cheerful person they had ever seen. I appeared happy-go-lucky but that was just an outward appearance."

He said he had been thinking of fleeing for two years after his financial problems got on top of him but it was only at the last moment he knew he was actually going to take the money.

Philip Curran, for the defence, said Lumb's financial problems were the "trigger" to what happened. "On a day-to-day basis he was helping other people but he couldn't help himself," said Mr Curran.

Sentencing Lumb the judge said: "It must be true that your mind must have been in turmoil because of the illogicality of your actions - not simply disappearing with that money to live the life of an itinerant abroad, but having stolen such a large sum, to return it in the circumstances you did over such a long period of time."

After the hearing, John Potter, Lumb's solicitor, said: "He deeply regrets what has happened. He is very remorseful and wishes to apologise to customers at the bank, colleagues, and friends and relatives who have stood by him. In particular his wife and children, who have been most upset by what he has done." Mr Potter said Lumb, who pleaded guilty to theft, had repaid all but pounds 120 of the money he stole.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing