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Trusted Aberdeen Crown Office worker stole money, drugs and evidence

The High Court in Edinburgh
The High Court in Edinburgh

A trusted Crown Office employee who stole hundreds of thousands of pounds of cash and drugs from her workplace could face a prison sentence.

Katherine Vaughan,34, took £91,932 in cash and drugs worth £147,720 from the procurator fiscal’s office in Aberdeen between January 2011 and September 2019.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard police suspect she “squandered” the cash.

She stole CCTV footage, audio tapes, DNA samples, bedding and confidential documents relating to prosecutions.

And the first offender also took passports, a locked safe, jewellery, matches, sanitary pads, a Kindle and bank statements.

Alex Prentice QC told judge Lord Beckett that Vaughan took advantage of being in charge of evidence which was being stored for court cases.

However, he said officers were unable to discover what happened to the money stolen by Vaughan or why she took items like a Kindle, a sweet wrapper and a bus ticket.

The prosecution lawyer said: “The range of items seems to highlight the strangeness of Katherine Vaughan’s behaviour.

“In spite of the best endeavours of the police, it remains unclear how she transported the productions from the office to her house.

“The logistical difficulties must have been compounded by the fact she ordinarily travelled by public transport.

“While some of them could easily have been hidden in a coat pocket or in a handbag, some of the items – such as the safe, which is small but rather heavy – would have presented her with much greater difficulty.

“Similarly it remains unclear what happened to the money that she embezzled.

“One possibility – in the absence of any evidence to the contrary – is that she squandered it over a protracted period of time.”

Vaughan, of Great Northern Road, Aberdeen, pleaded guilty to an embezzlement charge.

Mr Prentice told the court of she had started working for COPFS in July 2009 and took on the role of production keeper in 2011.

He added: “As such she was responsible for the management of all productions in the productions store.”

The advocate depute told the court that in 2019, senior staff wanted workers there to do new jobs. Vaughan was told she was going to be moved.

The court heard that Vaughan resisted the transfer and said she was happy.

Mr Prentice added: “Vaughan became emotional and said that the move would impact negatively on her mental health.”

Vaughan was told for a second time in September 2019 that she would have to do a new job.

Administration manager Kelly Goate later found Vaughan in the bathroom “clearly distressed”.

The court heard Vaughan told Ms Goate that the production store had been left unattended for a bank holiday weekend – causing senior managers to conduct an audit of the office and they found cash missing.

On September 27, 2019, Police Scotland detectives arrived to conduct a probe.

They interviewed Vaughan as a witness and told her they needed to take a DNA sample from her.

Mr Prentice added: “At that point Vaughan spontaneously stated that she suffered from mental health issues; that she had been stealing cash productions from the production store throughout the year 2019 to subsidise her income and that there were further cash productions in her home address.”

Vaughan was then cautioned – but continued to confess to the officers about what she had done.

Police later searched her flat where she lived alone and found that she had stolen £91,832.82.

They only managed to recover £1,347.84 of the sum taken from the fiscal’s office.

The court also heard police found 1.7 kilos of heroin and 2.4 kilos of cocaine at the property as well as quantities of crack cocaine, MDMA, Cannabis, Ketamine, Mephedrone, and Diazepam.

Mr Prentice added: “There is no suggestion that she intended to use, sell, supply or profit from the drugs.”

Police also found the other items at the address – some of it included, tights, socks, underwear and a stun gun.

Officers later examined Vaughan’s mobile phone and found that she had confessed her crimes to her mum in a text message.

It read: “Mum. I’m so sorry for what is about to happen. What I did it was never meant to hurt you.

“I became desperate and was ashamed at what I’d become and didn’t have the heart to tell you that I’ve been stealing from my work.

“Know that I love you and dad and feel such an idiot for letting it get this far.

“I understand if you want to hate me I don’t blame you.

“I’m so sorry for breaking your heart and how ashamed you must be on me. Please forgive me.”

Defence advocate Ximena Vengoechea (CORR) said Vaughan was currently working full time at a Nando’s and had mental health issues.

She added: “From a very early stage, the accused has indicated that she does not want to contest this charge.

“There is a strangeness to her offending. I’m at a loss to explain why she had a thing like a DNA sample in her possession.”

Remanding Vaughan in custody for the preparation of a psychiatric report, Lord Beckett said: “You have pleaded guilty to an extremely serious course of criminal conduct.

Vaughan is expected to be sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh on October 28.