Managers of a luxury spa hotel launched an ‘outrageous’ revenge campaign that involved attacking staff, damaging the owner’s car and stealing hundreds of pounds worth of booze after being overpowered over the chef’s firing.
Samantha Willett, 36, and Diana Reynolds, 41, were both operational managers at the Hillbark Hotel in Frankby, Merseyside, for eight to 12 months.
Liverpool Crown Court heard tensions between staff came to a head after Willett fired the hotel’s chef – only for the owner, Lisa Baker, to reinstate him.
The staff were then caught on CCTV wandering around the hotel in two groups: those who agreed with the decision and those who didn’t.
Reynolds saw another member of staff beating and swearing, while Willett admitted she had left the property and ‘clipped’ the owner’s car.
Samantha Willett (pictured right, leaving Liverpool Crown Court), 36, and Diana Reynolds (left), 41, were both operational managers of the Hillbark Hotel in Frankby, Merseyside
Damian Nolan, prosecutor, said: “These violations took place against the background of a significant amount of internal strife between the owner and other employees of Hillbark Hotel and Spa Resort.”
He added that there had been “no problems” until Willett fired the chief.
Mr Nolan said: ‘The owner intervened and reinstated it citing procedural issues.’
On October 5 last year, the owner informed Willett of her decision that caused a rift between employees and management.
Mr Nolan said: ‘Then things dropped very quickly all evening from about 8pm.’
Two groups of employees have been captured on camera images ‘moving through the hotel independently of each other’.
He said between £250 and £300 worth of ‘multiple bottles of spirits’ were stolen.
Nolan said, “They were taken deliberately, the Crown says, in revenge for the ‘injustice’ done to them.”
He said the items had been put in the trunk of a car and Willett then “deliberately” drove into the owner’s vehicle and caused damage.
Mr Nolan added that there were “groups that walked through the hotel and occasionally ran into each other” and that “several threatening comments were made.”
He said it was “clear that the defendants,” Reynolds in particular, “acted aggressively.”
The CCTV footage showed Reynolds “wave and punch at employees” and she hit colleague, Ratko Ivekovic, with a “slap or slap in the face.”
Mr Nolan said there was also talk of “ripping phone systems” and “corrupting computers.”
Willett has previous convictions for leaving without payment, violation of public order and assault, the most recent of which was in 2007.
Reynolds last appeared in court for drug use in 2009, the court heard.
Chris Stables, who was defending Willett, showed the court a photo of the car and explained that as a result of the incident it had to be repainted, but there was no significant damage.
The Hillbark Hotel, pictured above. Staff were caught on CCTV wandering around the hotel in two groups – those who agreed with the decision and those who didn’t
He said she had pleaded guilty on the basis that when events came to a head, she “hastily left the hotel while driving her own car and inadvertently clipped the side of Mrs Baker’s car.”
The judge disputed that the plaintiff’s evidence was intentional damage, to which Mr Stables replied: ‘The nature of the damage is perhaps more in keeping with a fleeting blow’.
Mr Stables said the incident “was born of this defendant’s desire to do the job well and professionally in circumstances where she would say she found it very difficult”.
He added that she is the main carer for two children and is currently unemployed, but hopes to find work after the court proceedings are completed.
Stables said it was “highly unlikely” that she would appear in court again and said she has “sincere remorse.”
Both women (pictured above) have to pay £750 in costs and Willett was sentenced to £750 compensation
Sarah Griffin, who defended Reynolds, said she had numerous medical problems and had recently suffered a ruptured appendix, surgery on her bowel and sepsis.
Ms Griffin said she has now been fired but will remain on sick leave due to her current job at Sainsbury’s.
She said Reynolds is considered a “low risk of offense” by the probation service. Willett, of Upton, admitted one count of criminal damage.
Reynolds, of Moreton, admitted there was an altercation, employee theft and property damage.
Judge Denis Watson, QC, sentenced, said: ‘The intensity of the events on this particular day at the Hillbark Hotel.
“It’s hard to understand, other than the fact that I’m sure you were both extremely proud of the work you did, but you were both proud of doing your job well and professionally on this particular occasion.”
Judge Watson said the chef’s recovery had led to an “outrageous turn of events.”
He added that Willett “showed all the signs of someone still blaming what happened.”
The judge took into account Reynolds’ age and that her previous convictions were “long ago.”
She was given a 12-month community service order with 15 rehabilitation activity requirements and a two-week curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Judge Watson said Willett’s previous convictions were “also many years ago.”
Willett was given 18 months’ probation.
Both women have to pay £750 in costs and Willett was ordered to pay £750 in damages.
A restraining order was also imposed, preventing Willett and Reynolds from approaching, contacting or discussing Ms Baker on social media.