Council’s fraud investigators uncover school finance chief’s £220k theft

Published: 12 October 2018

The former finance chief at a Battersea secondary school has been jailed for three and a half years after a council-led investigation discovered she’d stolen more than £220,000.

Kirsty Holmes had been employed as business manager at Battersea Park School for two years before her crimes were uncovered during a routine council audit of the school’s budgets.

The town hall employs a team of auditors whose job is to make sure public money is not stolen or misused.

As soon as they looked through the school’s bank accounts and its outgoings they spotted a number of irregularities that raised suspicions about Miss Holmes’ conduct. Some payments the school had made were to individuals not companies and many had no associated invoices.

Realising that the net was closing in on her the 45-year old fled to The Gambia in March 2012 with her partner Sunday Kalu, 47, into whose bank account large sums of the school’s money had been deposited. Whilst in Africa the couple used the stolen cash to buy property and a fleet of taxis and minibuses after the pair set up a travel and transport company.

She remained at large until December 2014 when she flew into Gatwick on a flight from Milan in Italy and was immediately arrested. Mr Kalu was arrested in 2015 when he too returned the UK.

When interviewed by detectives both claimed to have no knowledge of the thefts and blamed each other.

Last week at Kingston Crown Court the case was finally put before a jury who convicted both defendants.

The council’s education spokesman Cllr Sarah McDermott said: “This was despicable breach of trust borne out of sheer greed that deprived pupils at the school of all the resources they had been given.  Miss Homes and Mr Kalu effectively stole this money from young people in Battersea. I hope they reflect on that whilst they serve their prison terms.

The borough’s finance spokesman Cllr Guy Senior added: “This was good piece of detective work by our auditors who spotted these fraudulent transactions and were able to alert the police. We have a team of skilled financial investigators who ensure that the public money we administer is properly spent and correctly accounted for.”