Worker in debt as $10k stolen from Kinross Woolshed Hotel

A KINROSS Woolshed Hotel employee who allegedly stole more than $10,000 in cash from a safe before blaming it on two masked intruders had a $40,000 debt, a court has heard.

Nic Conway, who owned the venue at the time of the incident on December 23, 2013, told the Albury Local Court on Friday he had spoken to Mathew Paul Coombes about his gambling before the incident.

The 30-year-old Thurgoona man is fighting charges of stealing property as a clerk or servant and dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception.

Mr Conway told the court he had received a call from Coombes, who managed the venue at the time, on the morning of the incident.

Coombes hadn’t contacted police about the break-in –  the court heard the supposed balaclava-clad thieves had made threats against Mr Conway’s family.

When Mr Conway arrived at the scene, he found Coombes “looking fairly miserable” outside the venue.

“I thought it was unusual Matt hadn’t called the police, because he calls them quite regularly,” he said.

The owner also found it hard to believe people would sit outside in balaclavas, in the rain, waiting for someone to show up to the venue on a Monday morning, especially given it occurred about two hours before opening time.

When Mr Conway viewed CCTV footage from inside the pub, he said he saw Coombes go from the kitchen to the front, collect the keys, and go into the office where the safe and cash were located.

He didn’t expect Coombes, who he described as hard working and a highly valued employee, to be at the venue, and especially not so early on a Monday morning. 

Magistrate Tony Murray will visit the pub on Monday as part of a hearing, which started on Thursday, to make observations. 

The court heard $10,566.45 was missing from the Thurgoona venue. 

Coombes had run the venue’s punting club, but Mr Conway said employees were strictly banned from betting at the venue. 

He spoke to Coombes about breaching this months before the theft. 

“He was very lucky not to be put off … as he’d been a good employee, we thought a warning (would) suffice,” Mr Conway said. 

Mr Conway said he had “such a good relationship at the time with Matt”. 

The staff entry is not covered by security cameras. 

Coombes’ wife agreed she had been shocked and taken aback to learn her partner was $40,000 in debt.