By Iwan Gabe Davies

AN estate agent lettings manager who stole more than £300,000 from his employer to feed his gambling addiction has been jailed.

Robert Parker, aged 28, of Pyke Street, Barry, fleeced Nina Chivers, who owns Nina Estate Agents and Nina Lettings Agents on Broad Street.

She told Cardiff Crown Court of her devastation after an employee she “cared for like a son” preyed on her over a seven-year period.

Barry And District News: Robert Parker and Nina ChiversRobert Parker and Nina Chivers

Parker admitted stealing £302,000 in cash from her between 2010 and 2017 after he admitted one count of theft.

He was jailed for three years and two months at Cardiff Crown Court by Judge Niclas Parry who told him: “You bragged about your gambling and enjoyed the trappings of wealth.”

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.

Prosecutor Owen Williams said that the “materialistic” defendant would often have high value goods delivered to the office and enjoyed regular breaks and holidays.

Barry And District News: Robert Parker was handcuffed in the dock before being led away to the cellsRobert Parker was handcuffed in the dock before being led away to the cells

The court heard he had a fondness for horse racing and at one point was betting £50,000 a month.

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

Kevin Seal, mitigating, said client had sought help for his problem with Penarth Gamblers’ Anonymous and that his guilty plea could be taken as demonstrating his remorse.

His barrister added that “gambling is seen as an illness in itself”.

Mr Seal told the court: “As with any addiction, there are many highs and there are lows, always ending in a low and in destruction.”

Describing Parker as a “Jekyll and Hyde” character, he said he was the father of two young children and that he came from a “good family” who have been left devastated by his actions.

Barry And District News: Nina Chivers outside Cardiff Crown Court after Robert Parker was jailed for more than three yearsNina Chivers outside Cardiff Crown Court after Robert Parker was jailed for more than three years

Outside the court, Mrs Chivers spoke about the betrayal: “I first knew Robert 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.

“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.

Barry And District News: Robert ParkerRobert Parker"He confided in me with his problems and referred to me as his 'Second Mum'."

She added: “Heart wrenchingly, I have lost a special friendship with his mother Diane as we were best friends, it's now impossible to remain friends and I perfectly understand that she needs to support her son.

"I miss her in my life more than anyone would know.”

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

Parker will now be subject to a Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings with a hearing due to take place on May 20.

Judge Parry said: “This case demonstrates the havoc that a gambling addiction can cause.”