A CONVICTED fraudster has spoken of how she restarted her life after stealing £130,000 from her parents.

Melissa Fordham, now 36, formerly of Hutley Drive, Colchester, took the money to spent on “transient” items.

She was sentenced to three years in prison after admitting 14 charges of fraud, theft and obtaining property by deception.

But now her parents Terence, 83, and Elizabeth Fordham, 73, have said they have forgiven her.

They said they want to talk about her recovery since her release from prison to demonstrate there is always a good side to everything.

Mr and Mrs Fordham sold their house for £225,000 in 2006, bought a motor home in which to travel and put their daughter, Melissa, in charge of their money to pay off any bills and debts while they were away travelling.

But Melissa spent at least £130,000 on “transient” items without their permission.

Back in 2010, during the police investigation, Melissa said she wanted to tell her parents what she had done but was afraid of the disappointment and rejection it would bring.

“I wanted to tell them I was sorry,” she said.

“I’ve wanted to say that for a long time and I wanted to try and repair what I’ve done.

“There were various times throughout the ten years we had been apart that I would see my parents driving through Colchester.

“It was difficult because I never got that closure. I’m just thankful they’re back in my life. They have been a rock.

Read more >>> How a convicted fraudster turned her life around with fishing and teaching

Melissa said the effects of childhood bullying, spending addiction and marriage at 22 contributed to her downward spiral.

She said: “I was trying to keep up with the Joneses, I suppose.

“You know how alcoholics and drug users take stuff to get that high? For me, spending that money and having that nice, shiny object was exactly the same as them taking a pill.

“There was obviously something missing in my life. I knew I wasn’t happy but I had nowhere else to go once my parents left.”

She added: “People have these horror stories about prison but, for me, it was the best thing.

“In terms of processing it as a family, it’s just been the three of us as the rest of the family has cut ties.

“They don’t regret their decision and I am just ever so thankful that they did what they did.”

'She’s our flesh and blood'

Southend Standard:

Mr and Mrs Fordham said they have now repaired their relationship with their daughter.

Mr Fordham said: “We have forgiven her and she is indebted to us in doing so.”

The couple, who now live in their motor home in Roseberry Tourist Park in Willingham, Cambridgeshire, said Melissa was moved from HMP Peterborough to East Sutton Park open prison in Maidstone, Kent, where she served most of her sentence.

They said from the moment she arrived at the open prison, she experienced a beautiful growth in character.

Unfortunately, while her parents were forgiving, some other members of the family have not.

Read more >>> Parents forgive daughter who stole £130,000 life savings

Mr Fordham added: “There is no doubt about it, the anxiety she caused us in the early stages for a period of probably 12 to18 months was extremely hard especially when you’ve got debt collectors ringing you up and demanding thousands of pounds which you don’t happen to have.

“She’s taken all of our money at one time. OK, she’s had to pay some of it back but we have to accept it.

“She’s our flesh and blood. She didn’t kill anybody, she didn’t hurt anybody, she just got us wound up.

"This is something I’ve wanted to speak about for a long time and I still wanted to be on this earth while it was being done.”

'For the first time in a long time, I feel happy.'

Southend Standard:

Melissa was jailed in November 2017 and released a year later.

While at East Sutton Park Prison she received mental health counselling.

She now works with a teaching company in London and lives a happier life with her new partner, Andy, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

“I teach further education but even if I did teach primary or secondary, it wouldn’t bar me from teaching because my qualification and my offence are not seen as a safeguarding concern,” she said.

Melissa has also taken up fishing as a hobby which has proven a real success.

She has been featured in publications such as the Angling Times and she is sponsored by a bait and tackle business.

She said: “My partner took me fishing about 19 months ago and his daughter and I tied a hook to a piece of fishing wire to see what we could get.

“He was like ‘You’re never going to get anything with that’ but we actually got a nice sized carp.

“I love it. It so good for the mental health. He’s taught me everything I know.”

Melissa added: “Whereas before I would follow the crowd, I’m not doing that now – I’m just being me.

“For the first time in a long time, I feel happy.”