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'I'LL GIVE YOU MY SAVINGS, MUMMY' Victim of Christmas club thief reveals son's reaction to lost money...

Byline: JAMES MCCARTHY james.mccarthy@walesonline.co.uk

AVICTIM of Christmas club thief Joanne Jones has revealed how her son asked her: "Do you want my savings, mummy?" Mum-of-three Joanne McLean - who lost PS870.50 - broke the news to her children the cash for their presents had all gone thanks to their neighbour.

"My seven-year-old asked: 'Why did she do it mummy?' - and asked if I wanted his savings," Joanne said.

Joanne became suspicious they were being conned when she noticed Facebook posts from one of Jones' kids saying they had been treated to a McDonald's meal.

The day before, the crook, who stole almost PS8,000 from 19 people, was so skint she had been asking for cigarettes.

"One day she asked me for a fag because she did not have any money and I gave her a cigarette," the 33-year-old said.

"The next day her daughter put on Facebook that her mum had just fetched her a McDonald's.

"I said, 'Hang on, she didn't have no money and now she is fetching back McDonald's?' "It was a bit suspicious." Joanne called Christmas club company Park Group plc to check they had been receiving cash from Jones. They would not tell her because she was not the account holder.

But by September they had received a letter from the firm saying they had not been receiving money.

Joanne texted Jones, who lived minutes from her, asking: "What the hell is going on?" "Don't worry it's only my hamper I am behind on and it will be sorted out," Jones, from Treharris, told her.

That evening she admitted everything to another club member. "I texted her and said, 'Why did you not tell us?'" Joanne said.

Jones replied: "I thought I could pay it back."

Joanne, who works in a cafe, does not want to see Jones again.

"She lives in Devon now and that is where she will stay," she said. "She will be too ashamed to show her face around here.

"I spoke to her on Facebook after it happened and all I had was excuses. She was blaming her husband."

Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court heard she had used cash to buy booze for her alcoholic husband.

"A couple of weeks after we found out, a friend sent me a message saying she was out in the night," Joanne said. "We couldn't go out because we had no money but she was out drinking."

Joanne attended the court hearing this week, where Jones was jailed for 18 months.

"I saw her at the sentencing and there was just no emotion whatsoever," she said.

"We did not even have an apology. I went to court because I wanted an apology and I wanted to know where she spent the money but all we heard was that she blamed her husband."

Joanne is pleased the 36-year-old was jailed but feels guilty her kids are now without her.

"But she deserved it," Joanne said. "I thought she would have had a suspended sentence."

Jones had been collecting payments since January 2013. "I don't even want to look at her now," Joanne said.

Joanne thought Park should offer them compensation. "Park should pay us or pay us part of it," she said.

The firm was unavailable for comment.

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Joanne Jones has been jailed for stealing almost PS8,000 in Christmas savings

Joanne McLean, of Treharris, with her three children, from left, Tayla, nine, Kade, seven, and Jaymee, 13. They lost nearly PS900 when their Christmas club savings were stolen RICHARD SWINGLER
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 19, 2014
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