The former director of the Dean Heritage Centre has been convicted of two offences of fraud against the charity-run museum.

Nicholas Wood, 39, of Brains Green, Awre, claimed he had paid two bills totalling almost £1,500 out of his own pocket on the centre’s behalf and he made claims for re-imbursement, which were met.

But a jury at Gloucester Crown Court decided today (Jan 12) that his claims - including that the Chair of Trustees knew that he had the money - were false and that he had never paid out the money to outside suppliers as he claimed.

The jurors at the courthouse in Cirencester found him guilty of fraud by claiming to have paid a bill of £750 for an open air cinema event at the Centre and £744 for a consignment of sand to fill proposed children’s sandpits on the grounds.

The offences were committed between June 1 and August 1 2019, shortly after he had started work as centre director.

Following the guilty verdicts on Thursday (January13) the judge, Recorder Malcolm Gibney, adjourned sentence until the second week of February at Winchester Crown Court, where he will be sitting that week.

Prosecutor Chloe Griggs had told the jury at the start of the case "During his time as director he created false receipts to fraudulently claim reimbursements.

"With regard to the open air cinema, which was his idea, we say that no such item was ever paid for and he did it to make a gain for himself.

"The bags of sand he said he had ordered was a similar mechanism - creating and submitting a false receipt and keeping the money.

"He accepted he had created false receipts," she said. "But he said the Chair of the Trustees of the centre had encouraged him to create them in order to satisfy the finance officer that the expenditure had been made.

"He said they did that together because they had both decided that the items would be purchased at a later date and they needed to ring-fence the money. He said he was not acting dishonestly.

"The Centre is a registered charity which is heavily reliant on donations and we say the loss of almost £1,500 to the charity was a significant one."

The Soudley centre’s finance officer Louise Hall said he asked her to her to reimburse him the £750 hire fee for the cinema because he had paid it on his own credit card.He did not have a receipt for it but she made the payment to him because he was her boss and she ’felt pressured,’ she added.

After paying him she asked on numerous occasions for a receipt and received it in July. she said.

Ms Hall said the open air cinema event never took place and when she asked him to get a refund from the company he said he had been trying to contact them but they never returned his calls.

She said the sandpits plan was also Mr Wood’s idea and he told her he had paid £744 for the sand from his own credit card and asked for reimbursement and provided a receipt.

But the sand never arrived and in winter she suggested seeking a refund.

Later on, she said, she decided to check out the two invoices and she phoned the sand company, Hills, who said they had no record of any order from the centre. She emailed them a copy of the receipt and they said it was not in their format.

In evidence Wood, who is married with two children, said he had no previous convictions apart from a drink driving offence in 2009 and had always worked in management roles at Gloucestershire leisure attractions, he said.

The Dean Heritage Centre was "very much living from hand to mouth" financially when he was taken as an ’ideas guy’ who would ’drive things forward’ and help the charity become self-sufficient, he told the jury.

The cinema and the sandpits were two of his ideas for increasing revenue and the Chair of Trustees Alison Breton was fully behind them, he said.

"We were going to screen The Greatest Showman at the open air cinema and Alison told me to just get the money from Louise and go ahead with it.

"Alison agreed on the price and advised me just to go to Louise for the funds which I did."

But then, he said, when he tried to book the cinema with the provider the date they wanted was no longer available and he felt down and depressed about it.

He claimed Ms Breton then told him to ’park’ the money so that it would be available for a second attempt at the idea the following year.

Because Louise kept asking for a receipt for the cinema money he spoke to Ms Breton and she told him to ’just get one made up,’ he alleged.

He said Ms Breton also agreed to him having the money to purchase sand for his sand-pit project .

"The receipt document for this was again done between myself and Alison," he said. "It was just a case of ’do what you did last time.’

"It was my understanding that this was just how things were done. The culture was ’You need to get on with the project so if you need something go and get it.

"Alison was aware I had the money, she was fully aware."

However, the jury rejected his account and convicted him of both charges at the end of the two day trial.