A mum who tragically lost her 15-year-old child to cancer was shocked to find out that her best friend had stolen a total of £225,000 from her, with some of it being taken on the day she buried her son’s ashes.

June Watson, a financial advisor, had slowly taken funds from the company she worked for – which was owned by her best friend, Yvonne Cannings.

Mum-of-three Yvonne, from Great Harwood, Lancashire, was horrified to find that her friend had stolen money from her, and blown it on designer handbags, jewellery and loan repayments – although much of the missing money is still unaccounted for.

Yvonne was robbed of up to £225,000. Credit: Focus Features
Yvonne was robbed of up to £225,000. Credit: Focus Features

Ms Watson even stole money on the day Yvonne buried her son’s ashes.

In January, Ms Watson was jailed for four and a half years after a jury found her guilty of two counts of theft.

On Monday, a judge ordered her to pay £23,000 during a proceeds of crime hearing or face another 12 months in prison.

As reported by The Lancaster and Morecambe Citizen, Judge Andrew Jefferies QC told Ms Watson: “The amount of money available is £23,213.21. I therefore make a confiscation order to that sum.

“You will have three months to pay. If you fail to make the payment you will serve a sentence of 12 months conditional.”

Yvonne explained: “Everyone liked June. She was friendly and genuine, and seemed to have a heart of gold.

“She worked for me but we became best friends too. We had even shared a bed together after a night out. I helped her out with cash. I gave her £500 for a wedding present. I thought I could trust her with my life.

“To find out that she had been stealing from us, all through the trauma of burying my son’s ashes, was a huge shock. It was worse than heartless – beyond contempt. I’ve been betrayed, cheated and lied to by a woman I trusted and sat next to every day for five years.

“After she was found out, she ran away to a hotel – which she paid for with my money! She is twisted and evil and totally shameless.”

Ms Watson began working for Yvonne in 2009, although they knew each other socially before then.

June and Yvonne became best friends. Credit: Focus Features
June and Yvonne became best friends. Credit: Focus Features

Yvonne added: “I had built a company up from scratch, offering financial services, and I had worked so hard. I would work in the evenings, whilst my sons were little, and I didn’t even earn enough to pay myself a wage for a while. We made a lot of sacrifices.”

As her company started to grow, Yvonne decided to take on some employees, including Ms Watson, and explained they ‘got on really well’ and would ‘chat all day’.

Yvonne continued: “She was ten years younger than me; she had two kids and was divorced. We had a lot in common. We went on work nights out and Christmas parties. We went to the races. We even piled into a double bed together after a night out because there was nowhere else to sleep.

“We went on holiday together to Barcelona. We were best friends. I felt I could trust her implicitly.”

Yvonne lost her son, Ben, to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in July 1999 when he was just 15 and the grieving family couldn’t bear to bury his ashes until July 2015.

She said: “Losing Ben was devastating for me, my ex-husband, and our two other sons. I had a series of appointments with the funeral directors whilst we chose Ben’s headstone, the wording and the photos.

“After every appointment, I would return the office in floods of tears and June would comfort me – whilst all the time she was stealing behind my back.”

June Watson. Credit: Focus Features
June Watson. Credit: Focus Features

Some days, Ms Watson would withdraw up to £750 cash, putting it straight into her own account.

Yvonne nearly lost the business she’d built up and was helped through the winter with food parcels from friends as she was left penniless, with no money to even pay to heat her house.

Reflecting on the situation, she added: “[Ms Watson] even tried to blame it all on me. I was furious to have my own character questioned in court.

“I’m not sure I will ever see a penny back from her. But it’s not about the money. I wanted to see justice done and I wanted her shamed in public.

“I’ve lived through much worse than this. And I won’t let this drag me down.”

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