Jury clears Saltram Club steward Tonia Bailey of stealing £40,000
THE husband of a steward cleared of stealing almost £40,000 at the social club where they worked has spoken of "two years of absolute hell".
Tonia Bailey, aged 47, was found not guilty of theft and false accounting at the Saltram Club amid dramatic scenes at Plymouth Crown Court.
Mrs Bailey sobbed uncontrollably as about a dozen friends in the public gallery cheered at the end of her nine-day trial.
She had denied stealing more than £19,000 from the club accounts and a similar sum from the Christmas savings of members.
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Tony Bailey, who also worked as a steward at the St Judes Club said outside court that they were "absolutely elated".
He said: "Me and my wife and our family have been through two years of absolute hell.
"The verdicts were the right verdicts and we always said we did nothing wrong.
"I just want to walk down the street with my head held high. We have turned a corner now and we just want to get on with our lives."
The jury heard that it was almost exactly two years ago that mother-of-three Mrs Bailey called in the police when thousands of pounds in thrift club money went missing from the office safe.
The court was told 45 people lost their Christmas savings.
Mr Bailey said after the verdicts: "Tonia has been found not guilty of everything but I want people to know that we would never stoop so low as steal the savings of people we know.
"I know somebody has done something but we would never have done that."
Accountants then discovered that thousands of pounds had gone missing from the club over the previous year – though the exact figure was disputed by prosecution and defence experts in court.
Mrs Bailey, who lived next door to the Salisbury Road club, was arrested in February last year.
Only days earlier she and her husband had been made redundant from the club, alongside other staff.
The club was taken into administration, though it has since opened with new stewards and a new committee.
Mr Bailey, who has been married for 25 years, said: "We have had a lot of support from members of the club. I don't wish anything bad on the club.
"I worked at the Saltram Club for 14 years and I enjoyed my time there. We had no problems at all, except for the last two years.
"I want it to be there for the community."
Mr and Mrs Bailey were last night celebrating with family and friends at the pub they have been running for the last 16 months, The Crown and Anchor on The Barbican.