Managers at hotel launched 'disgraceful' revenge campaign after being over-ruled about sacking chef

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Managers at a luxury spa hotel launched a 'disgraceful' revenge campaign that saw staff attacked, the owner's car damaged and hundreds of pounds worth of booze stolen after they were over-ruled about sacking the head chef, a court heard.

Samantha Willett, 36, and Diana Reynolds, 41, were both operational managers at the Hillbark Hotel in Frankby, Merseyside, for between eight and 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.

Staff were then caught on CCTV roaming through the hotel in two groups - those who agreed with the decision and those who didn't.

Reynolds was seen slapping another staff member and hurling verbal abuse, while Willett admitted she left the premises and 'clipped' the owner's car.

Samantha Willett (pictured right, leaving Liverpool Crown Court), 36, and Diana Reynolds (left), 41, were both operational managers at the Hillbark Hotel in Frankby, Merseyside

Damian Nolan, prosecuting, said: 'These offences took place against a background of a significant amount of internal strife between the owner and other staff members of Hillbark Hotel and Spa Resort.'

He added there had been 'no issues' until Willett fired the chef.

Mr Nolan said: 'The owner intervened and reinstated him citing, procedural issues.'

On October 5 last year, the owner informed Willett of her decision which caused a rift between members of staff and management.

Mr Nolan said: 'Matters then descended very quickly throughout the evening from about 8pm onwards.'

Two groups of staff are captured on CCTV 'moving around the hotel separate from each other'. 

He said between £250 and £300 worth of 'multiple bottles of spirits' was stolen.

Mr Nolan said: 'They were taken deliberately, the Crown say, as revenge for the "wrong" inflicted upon them.'

He said the items were put in the boot of a car and Willett then 'deliberately' drove into the owner's vehicle, causing damage.

Mr Nolan added there were 'groups moving around the hotel occasionally coming across each other' and there were 'various threatening remarks made'.

He said it was 'clear the defendants', particularly Reynolds, were 'acting aggressively'.

The CCTV showed Reynolds 'swinging, hitting at staff members' and she hit fellow employee, Ratko Ivekovic, with an 'slap or open handed punch to the face'.

Mr Nolan said there was also the 'ripping of phone systems' and 'damaging of computers'.

Willett has previous convictions for making off without payment, breach of community order and assault, the latest of which was 2007.

Reynolds was last in court in 2009 for drug use, the court heard. 

Chris Stables, defending Willett, showed the court a picture of the car, explaining it would need repainting as a result of the incident but there was no significant damage.

The Hillbark Hotel, pictured above. Staff were caught on CCTV roaming through 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 had 'left the hotel premises hurriedly driving her own car and unintentionally clipped the side' of Ms Baker's car.

The judge challenged that the prosecution evidence was intentional damage, to which Mr Stables replied: 'The nature of the damage is perhaps more consistent with a glancing 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 primary carer for two children and is currently unemployed but hopes to gain employment following the conclusion of court proceedings.

Mr Stables said it was 'highly unlikely' she would be before the courts again and said she has 'genuine remorse'.

Both women (pictured above) must pay £750 in costs and Willett was ordered to pay £750 in compensation

Sarah Griffin, defending Reynolds, said she had numerous medical problems and had recently suffered a ruptured appendix, an operation on her bowel and sepsis.

Ms Griffin said she has now been discharged but remains on sick leave from her current work at Sainsbury's.

She said Reynolds is deemed a 'low risk of offending' by the probation service. Willett, of Upton, admitted one count of criminal damage.

Reynolds, of Moreton, admitted affray, theft by employee and damage of property.

Judge Denis Watson, QC, sentencing, said: 'Quite the intensity of events on this particular day at the Hillbark Hotel.

'It's difficult to understand other than the fact I'm sure both of you had enormous pride in the job that you did but pride at doing a job well and professionally was utterly deserted by both of you on this particular occasion.'

Judge Watson said the reinstating of the chef had led to a 'disgraceful state of affairs'. 

He added that Willett showed 'all the signs of somebody who still resents what happened.'

The judge considered Reynolds' age and that her previous convictions were 'a long time ago'.

She was handed a 12-month community order with 15 Rehabilitation Activity Requirements and a two-week curfew between 9pm and 6am.

Judge Watson said Willett's previous convictions were 'also many years ago'. 

Willett was handed an 18-month conditional discharge.

Both women must pay £750 in costs and Willett was ordered to pay £750 in compensation.

A restraining order preventing Willett and Reynolds from approaching, contacting or speaking about Ms Baker on social media was also imposed.

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