A chef from Bexhill stole £280 worth of John Lewis gift vouchers at a wedding he was hired to work at, a court heard.
Lee Stonham, of Wickham Avenue, was sentenced to 150 hours of unpaid work and a community order of 12 months plus fees totalling £605 at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court on Monday, November 16.
The 40-year-old chef pleaded guilty to stealing the vouchers from Jessie and Mattie Evans’ reception in Littlestone, Kent, on April 18.
Mrs Evans believes he got off lightly after putting the couple through hell.
“Lee definitely didn’t get a harsh enough sentence for what he put us through,” she told the Observer after the trial.
“Its not even about the monetary amount to us, it’s that he stole from our guests and then put us through the hell of not knowing who it was for months.
“[It’s] such a violation of trust and [he] has completely altered the memories when we look back on our wedding day.”
The newly-weds discovered around 10 cards were missing the day after their reception at the bride’s parents’ house.
Stonham was pinpointed as the thief after Mrs Evans called John Lewis on the off chance the vouchers had been spent.
The company confirmed they had all been spent two days after the wedding and after months of waiting, the police confirmed it was the chef.
“He was going on holiday and used my gifts to buy his holiday wardrobe,” Mrs Evans said.
“How insulting that he stole the generous gifts from my family and friends who wanted to help my new husband and myself start our lives together and he bought flip flops. Actual flip flops, amongst other things.”
Before Stonham was identified as the perpetrator, the couple felt like they were accusing their family and friends as they tried to find out what was missing.
“It was a huge strain as we trusted everyone we had invited, or so we thought,” Mrs Evans said.
“Suddenly everyone was a suspect. It was so stressful.
“We also had to call all of our guests to ask if they had given us a card or gift.
“Even though we didn’t mind if they did or didn’t, we had to ask them to find out what had been taken, it was so awkward.
“I hate him for putting us through this. He showed no remorse.
“In court he stared at me as he left as if to say ‘its your fault I got caught’.”
Mrs Evans said the owner of the catering firm Stonham worked for is livid and absolutely devastated as she trusted him too for the five years he was an employee.
The newly-wed now warns any other engaged couples to lock their presents away to avoid a repeat of what happened to her.
“I almost didn’t call the police because I thought well they can’t interview every guest and person who was there that day, so we honestly thought we would never find out who took them.
“I know a few people who have had it happen to them at their weddings and they didn’t call police and never found out who took their things and it still haunts them to this day.
“Every couple planning a wedding we speak to now we tell them to lock their cards and presents away and don’t be so trusting.”
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