AN estate agent has spoken of her devastation after an employee she “cared for like a son” admitted stealing more than £300,000 in cash from her.

Nina Chivers, who owns Nina Estate Agents and Nina Lettings Agents on Broad Street, fell prey to Robert Parker who today admitted the embezzlement.

The 28-year-old, of Pyke Street, Barry, appeared before Cardiff Crown Court to admit one count of theft from the lettings business, committed between 2010 and 2017.

University dropout Parker was a close family friend of Mrs Chivers who gave him a start in her growing company in 2009 after he abandoned his studies.

Thinking him a conscientious, trustworthy and efficient member of her team, he was soon promoted to be her lettings manager – and he was also soon stealing from his benign employer on a huge scale.

Outside the court, Mrs Chivers spoke about the betrayal: “I first knew Robert Parker when he was 13. His mother Diane and I worked together in another estate agents practice for a few years until I decided to leave and open my own estate agency.

“Diane decided to come with me and to start work for me as we got on so well and had a close friendship.

“He started university and after his first year found university wasn't for him.

“I offered him a job with prospects so, he started employment for me in 2009.”

After giving him full training over the years, she appointed him her lettings manager.

Mrs Chivers said: “It was found Robert had manipulated, adapted my management accounts. He used dilapidated/false records to enable him to steal and move monies so that it remained unnoticed.

“No landlord was ever not paid as he used my money to pay landlords and this raised no suspicion.”

She added: "My husband and I cared for Robert like a son, I trusted him implicitly. He frequently came to our house to go on bike rides with my husband and my husband helped with building work over the years in his homes.

"He confided in me with his problems and referred to me as his 'Second Mum'."

The court heard that he admits stealing £302,000 but denies he took a further £223,000.

A hearing has been scheduled for January 29, 2019, at which the issue will be argued.

Parker was granted conditional bail by the Recorder of Cardiff, Judge Eleri Rees.