A CHARITY shop manager has been jailed for two years after stealing more than £26,000 in takings to help pay her bills at home.

Mother-of-two Donna Richardson had bailiffs knocking on her door and was at the end of her tether when she decided to steal cash and cheques from Dog's Trust.

Police found handbags stuffed full of at least £1,000 in loose change and thousands of pounds in uncashed cheques when they searched her home.

Alan Blake, prosecuting, said that the Dogs' Trust charity shop would be unable to show any profit for at least two years, thanks to the 42-year-old's crimes.

He said officers found more than £5,000 in uncashed cheques made out to the Dog’s Trust.

The alarm had first been raised when an accountant working for the animal charity in Newbury noticed a substantial discrepancy in the takings of the store.

The police were called after an internal investigation involving the Dog’s Trust head office found that there were no banking slips for the missing takings.

Ms Richardson was arrested on the April 28.

Although police managed to recover around £6,000 from Ms Richardson’s home in Kersey Crescent, Newbury, almost £20,000 remained missing.

“The Newbury shop is unlikely to be able to make a positive contribution to charity for the whole of financial years 2017/2018,” Mr Blake said.

He added that the store was likely to make a loss for the next two years.

Richardson, a single mother with two teenage daughters, told police she had taken the money to pay her household expenditure and debts.

Stephen Molloy, defending, said Richardson was "on the edge financially."

“She started as a volunteer in the charity shop and then was propelled into a position with managerial responsibilities and was paid the minimum wage for that.

“She was in a very dire financial situation. She was not living extravagantly but what she was earning would not cover her day-to-day living expenses.

“Bailiffs were knocking on her door at all times of day and night, seeking to recover funds. In essence, she was at the end of her tether,” he said.

Richardson admitted a charge of theft by an employee, totalling £26,185.

Judge Angela Morris, sitting at Reading Crown Court, told the defendant: “To your credit you made full admissions when you were interviewed by the police.”

However, she added: “I can only observe that at the time when the accountant was first querying what happened that you did not own up. It was only when the police came knocking that you had no option but to accept your responsibility.”

Judge Morris said the position of charity shop manager was a role of high responsibility.

“By its very nature, charities rely on the goodwill of volunteers and contributors and those that work in them.”