Former office manager admits stealing over £26,000 from charity

Ardleigh House community association

The former office manager of the Ardleigh House Community Association has been convicted of stealing £26,253.93 from the charity. - Credit: Ardleigh House Community Association

The former office manager for the Ardleigh House Community Association has admitted stealing over £26,000 from the Hornchurch charity.

Charlotte Fitch-Murphy, of Paignton Close near Gallows Corner, appeared in court on November 11 after pleading guilty to the theft of £26,253.93 earlier this year. 

Fitch-Murphy entered a guilty plea at Snaresbrook Crown Court on April 22. She will be sentenced by the same court on February 24, 2022.

The theft has left the community association reeling, with its chair Leslie Stock admitting to feeling "betrayed".

"She (Fitch-Murphy) was well-liked, and it has to be said, in some quarters is still well-liked."

Founded in 1946, the Ardleigh Green Road charity serves the local community by offering leisure classes and a place for groups to meet.

Leslie said Fitch-Murphy had been the charity's office manager for more than 12 years before being suspended - and then dismissed - after her wrongdoing was discovered.

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It was then reported to the police.

Already under pressure due to Covid-19, Fitch-Murphy's theft left the association in dire straits.

"We could've easily gone out of existence if she (Fitch-Murphy) had stolen a bit more," said Leslie.

A member for 25 years before becoming chair two-and-a-half years ago, this association has long since been part of Leslie's life.

Though "glad" that 51-year-old Fitch-Murphy pleaded guilty, the situation has left a sour taste in his mouth, he said.

"We are feeling bitter about it all, to be honest. Powerless," said Leslie.

February's sentencing date was confirmed after proceedings were adjourned at a hearing held last Thursday (November 11).

"We're unhappy at how it's being dragged out," said the chair.

Fitch-Murphy has been released on unconditional bail until February 24.