Primary school headteacher's family ‘told boyfriend to take fraud blame’
The family of a headteacher joined forces in a bid to get her niece’s boyfriend to accept full responsibility for a money spinning fraud at her school, a jury heard.
Michelle Hollingsworth, her husband Joseph and his sister’s husband Michael Dewsbury – neighbours in Hatherton Park, Cannock – allegedly attempted to get Robert McKeown to confess to being a “rogue trader”, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told.
The target’s then-girlfriend Elaine Dewsbury, daughter of Michael, was also involved in the supposed plot, it was claimed.
The motive was to “shift suspicion away from” Michelle Hollingsworth, the head at Annie Lennard Primary School in Smethwick, explained Mr Mark Jackson, prosecuting on behalf of Sandwell Council.
McKeown, a 35-year-old carpenter from Hill Street in Hednesford who trades as RPM Carpentry, was paid more than £40,500 for work allegedly done at the school, the court heard.
All of the payments and purchase orders were authorised by Michelle Hollingsworth, it was said.
“Most of it was not carried out,” maintained Mr Jackson, who told the jury McKeown had pleaded guilty to conspiring with the headteacher to defraud the school and Sandwell Council. He is expected to be a witness for the prosecution.
The prosecutor continued: "It is anticipated he will say he received payment for work that was never done at Michelle Hollingsworth's instigation.
"He agreed with her that he would submit false invoices and that when he received the payment he would return a substantial amount of the money to her and that is exactly what he says happened."
All but one of the cheques - the exception allegedly referred to work actually carried out - were signed by Michelle Hollingswood, it was claimed.
When an investigation into the finances of the school was launched, she supposedly told him not to name her and said he would get a lesser charge if he took all the blame, the jury heard.
McKeown refused to attend a meeting at her home with Joseph Hollingsworth as well as Michael and Elaine Dewsbury so the trio created a flowchart supposedly telling him how to take the blame and reassuring him his legal costs would be covered by the Hollingsworths, it was claimed.
Michelle Hollingsworth is expected to accuse him of lying, said Mr Jackson.
Elaine Dewsbury has allegedly admitted the flowchart was in her handwriting but denied attending the meeting and maintained the content of the chart came from McKeown after the meeting which she claimed he did attended, it was said.
Her father maintained he could not remember the conversation he allegedly had with Joe Hollingsworth which was detailed in the flowchart.
Jospeh Hollingsworth declined to attend a voluntary interview with investigators over the issue, the prosecutor added.
All four defendants deny attempting to pervert the course of justice and the case continues.