Melton woman who stole rare teddy bears from Asfordby collector fails in jail sentence challenge

An example of a Steiff teddy bear EMN-160128-141300001
An example of a Steiff teddy bear EMN-160128-141300001
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A Melton woman who plundered her pal’s £37,000 teddy bear collection “richly deserved” to be jailed as nothing can replace a “loved and cherished teddy” - a judge said.

Judge Paul Batty QC made the comment as he rejected a sentence challenge from Rachel Catherine Reynolds (46).

Reynolds, of Greaves Avenue, decimated her friend’s beloved Steiff teddy bear collection and sold them for a fraction of their value on eBay.

She was aided by Claire Louise Cunningham (46), of Main Street, Asfordby.

The greedy pair’s victim was mum-of-six Christine May (51), of Asfordby, who had built up a world-class collection of 700 bears, many of which held treasured memories.

She trusted Reynolds implicitly, London’s Appeal Court heard, believing her to be her friend.

She gave her a key to keep an eye on her house when she was away, but had no idea Reynolds was betraying her by systematically depleting her collection.

In all she lost around 100 bears.

The loss had a devastating impact on Mrs May, said the judge, particularly as her mum was desperately ill at the time.

When she first realised the bears had gone missing - alerted by sales on eBay - she even wondered if one of her own children might be to blame.

Reynolds was jailed for two-and-a-half years at Leicester Crown Court in September last year after admitting a string of burglaries.

Cunningham received a two-year term after admitting two burglary counts.

Her daughter, Fearne Cunningham (22), received a 16-month suspended term after admitting handling 54 of the bears which she sold for nearly £2,000 on eBay.

Reynolds and Claire Cunningham challenged their sentences, claiming they were far too harsh.

But Judge Batty, sitting with Lady Justice Sharp and Mr Justice Blake, said their sentences were severe but “richly deserved”.

Reynolds claimed her son is “profoundly disabled” and needs her at home.

But Judge Batty said a probation report revealed her son, although requiring assistance throughout the week, appeared to be “thriving” in her absence.

Mrs May’s life had become overshadowed by the thefts, said the judge, and she even had to move home.

The two women’s lawyers also challenged the value of the stolen bears estimated by prosecutors.

But Judge Batty ruled: “A precise value is of little materiality. No monetary value can be placed on a loved and cherished Steiff teddy bear”.

Both sentences were confirmed and the appeals dismissed.