A woman has revealed the absolute devastation inflicted on her by a trusted employee who stole tens of thousands of dollars from her Lavington child-care business.
Kyra Slade was full of ambition and excitement when she bought the centre in 2015 from a woman she much-admired, Janice Wilcox.
"I absolutely love her, she is the founder of child-care in the Albury region."
IN OTHER NEWS:
Royal got the job after an extensive interview process before Miss Slade and a panel-of-three: an Aboriginal community member, a staff member and a parent.
The appointment greatly freed-up Miss Slade's time so she could return to Sydney to pursue other interests but, most importantly, be closer to family.
She continued to visit Albury regularly - sometimes monthly, sometimes every fortnight - to keep a watch over the business.
But it all began to fall apart soon after Royal began in the job. Parents seeking to reclaim bond money were becoming upset when told there was no record of their payments.
Ultimately, it led to Miss Slade being labelled a thief, "lies" that were being spread throughout the community.
Staff, she said, were being asked how they could possibly work for her. It had all become so hard that each night she cried herself to sleep, "thinking I'm going to have to tell my staff they don't have a job".
"It's been a really horrible time, I really thought I was about to lose everything. I had to mortgage my home, to put my security ... in jeopardy.
"That was just to ensure the children still had a child-care centre to come to and my staff still had a job."
In a letter of catharsis, Miss Slade writes how she feels she has been "sucked dry" and "like I have been totally depleted".
"I feel like I have been violated, the pain is at times so intense that I have considered ending my own life."
All along it was Royal at the heart of a deception that ripped $24,246.15 out of the business. When this became known, many parents apologised.
"She did a really good job in turning my staff and my family against me," she told The Border Mail.
"They all walked out one-by-one, and that was really hard because I handed her the most beautiful staff as well who just began to think I was this horrible person."
Royal, 39, was sentenced in Albury Local Court to an 18-month community corrections order for embezzlement as a clerk or servant.
"In my heart of hearts I just hope that she gets the help that she needs," she said.
"I pray that she never does this again and she helps herself, because what a horrible way to exist, horrible."
Doubts cast on thieving mum's 'remorse'
Natasha Royal went "very close" to being jailed for stealing from her employer.
Taking $24,245.15 from the Kiddiewinks Early Learning and Care Centre was "really serious offending".
Magistrate Richard Funston rejected defence lawyer Timothy Huggins' submission she was struggling to feed her children, now aged 17 and 13 and with their father for the past year, because of a lack of child support.
People "right across the country" were not getting child support and "they don't go and steal".
"You don't steal from your employer to make ends meet, it just doesn't work that way.
"I wonder just how remorseful this plea of guilty is."
Royal was convicted and placed on an 18-month community corrections order and ordered to pay $6246.15 compensation.
Prosecutor Sergeant Andrew Coombs said $16,150 compensation was also being sought for forensic accounting costs. This was denied.
Police said Royal requested families pay a centre bond in cash, rather than direct debit.
Over 12 months, "the accused has been taking money from customers and instead of banking the money in the company account ... has been keeping the money for herself."
Business co-owner Kyra Slade detected the offending and sacked Royal, who repaid $18,000 and asked that she not be reported to police though she was after irregularities suggested another $6000 was missing.
Speaking after the sentencing, Miss Slade said Royal was going into the business's compliance software and changing BSB and account numbers by one digit.
"You could see what she kept doing before debit day," she said.
"Obviously I was racking my brain, I was wondering why all these great families were racking up these massive debts."
Miss Slade said she was forced to use debt collectors.
"They were upset I was doing this obviously because they promised me they were paying the money," she said.
"I had Natasha with me on one day where I had a woman crying and saying 'I've been paying, I promise I've been paying' and Natasha sat there the whole time, behind me now when I noticed, and crying as well.
"When this lady left the office I looked at her and I said 'why are you crying?'.
"But I could see what see what she was doing, she was manipulating the whole mood."
Miss Slade said she had the "perfect" centre at the time Royal took over as director.
"It was boutique, it was exceeding, we had great families, everyone was paying their fees on time, there was no debt," she said.
"She had the best staff. She just came in and absolutely destroyed it."