Julie Sexton-Blythe
Julie Sexton-Blythe, 51, used the money she stole to buy fur coats, shoes and designer handbags West Midlands Police

A crooked accountant from Birmingham fleeced her company out of more than £300,000 and splashed the cash on designer handbags and clothes.

Julie Sexton-Blythe, who worked for badge and medal manufacturer Reliable Stamping in the Hockley area of the city, diverted money from the company's account to her own personal account for nearly a year from February 2015.

Managers raised the alarm in January this year when they noticed that a series of payments to two particular suppliers had all but drained company reserves. Sexton-Blythe, 51, who joined the firm in 2014 , had funnelled the cash into her own NatWest account.

Police found that she began stealing money within six months of joining the company, using her position to create two bogus payees that resembled the names of genuine suppliers.

West Midlands Police raided her home in Shropshire and uncovered a hoard of designer clothes, including fur coats, and accessories such as handbags, purses and belts.

They also raided a beauty salon in Bridgnorth that she bought this summer, and found it was equipped with high-end equipment.

After being questioned, Sexton-Blythe admitted the scam and claimed that she had gone on the shopping spree to cheer herself up after the death of a family member in a car crash in 2011. During a hearing at Birmingham Crown Court she admitted theft by employee and was sentenced to 40 months in prison.

An investigating officer, DC Catherine Wall , said: "She tried to cover her tracks by creating two payees with names very similar to established suppliers ... and she managed to get away with her fraud for almost a year.

"In the end she was caught by her own greed as she continued diverting cash into her own accounts even at quiet trading times. When the hole in company finances got bigger her scam was identified.

"The beauty salon was kitted out with high-end equipment, expensive furniture and leading beauty products. There is no way she could have afforded what we found on her accountant's salary. In total, the payments she made to herself reached £315,000.

"In interview, she claimed to be suffering emotional and psychological trauma from the car crash death of a family member in 2011 ... and [claimed] that spending money on clothes and accessories made her feel better.

"She said that this 'fix' would not last long so she found herself doing it again and again."