When I handed £14k over to my BA worker mate, she promised me a dream Disney holiday. But then the dream turned into a nightmare…
By Kerry Vincent, 32, from Aldershot
A duped mum-of-two has described how she was physically sick after discovering her £16k Disney trip of a lifetime was a scam… masterminded by her mate.
Trusting Kerry Vincent, 32, handed over the cash to close friend and British Airways worker Holly Barber, 27, from Aldershot, who promised her special staff mates rates on a huge family holiday to Disney World Florida.
In total, 35 of Kerry’s extended family stumped up £398.60 per person for their dream holiday.
But when Holly failed to hand over the paperwork, Kerry, mum to Leah, seven and Oliver, 11, drove to Heathrow Airport where she believed Holly worked to get to the bottom of things.
That was the heart-stopping moment that she discovered that her holiday did not exist… and Holly been FAKING her job at BA after leaving the airline a year earlier.
Kerry, a spa day manager from Bordon in Hampshire, said: “I thought Holly was my friend. I don’t understand how she could pull off such a cruel scam.
“Holly’s betrayal has absolutely destroyed me. It makes me feel sick to remember how she’d ask my kids if they were looking forward to Disney, knowing full well there was no holiday and never would be.
“I don’t know how she thought she’d get away with it.
“She even helped me to plan how I revealed the Disney World holiday to my kids on Christmas Day. We watched YouTube videos to see how other families had done it, then she helped me to come up with a list of Disney themed presents.
“The kids unwrapped these on Christmas Day before I filmed them opening special envelopes revealing they’d be going to Florida. They were so excited.
“It took me a week to build up the courage to break the news to my children that the holiday was off. Then Leah offered to empty her piggy bank to help us to save the trip. It was heartbreaking.
“Instead of enjoying a fortnight in Florida this summer, the best I could do was treat the kids to a day out at Thorpe Park using my Tesco Clubcard vouchers.”
Holly first offered to help Kerry out with a cut-price holiday in October 2014, luring her with the idea of a luxurious trip to Dubai.
Kerry had mentioned wanting to surprise her partner Lee Turpin, a pest controller, with a trip for his 30th birthday in April 2015.
She paid Holly £387.00 per person for the two of them, as well as passing on the same amount again for Lee’s friend and his wife to join them.
Kerry said: “I’d been thinking about booking a trip for Lee for a little while and I mentioned this to Holly one evening when she was over at my house.
“She offered to help me out with it – I didn’t ask. She explained that she could get me a special staff rate for an all-inclusive break, and she could also sort us out a free upgrade for business class flights too.
“It sounded fantastic, and I was so grateful to Holly for what she’d offered to do. I couldn’t wait to see the shock on Lee’s face when I revealed the surprise.”
Not long after booking the Dubai trip, Holly told Kerry about a cheap Disney holiday she had booked for another friend.
When Kerry replied that she would love to take her kids to Disney one day too, Holly offered to sort it out.
Kerry said: “We’re not a rich family. We work really hard for our money, and we live in a rented house.
“Having the opportunity to go to Disney was so special, and it wasn’t something we would even have thought about if Holly hadn’t offered to book it for us.
“We never would have been able to afford it alone.
“Soon the plans had snowballed. As word got around, more and more of my family were asking whether they could come on the fortnight-long trip in August too.
“Some of my family turned to credit cards and loans to pay for the holiday. It was too much of a bargain to miss out on – the booking included the modern Disney Contemporary Resort hotel, half-board meals, flights, transfers, and Disney park passes.
“Holly was happy to sort it all out though.
“She asked me to send over everyone’s passport numbers, and told me that my brother’s girlfriend would have to fly in economy as the business class section was sold out.
“I got everyone to transfer the money into my bank account, and I sent it straight on to Holly.
“We were texting back and forward as she described going into the staff booking system to sort it all out for me.
“Then she printed me a booking confirmation email with the BA logo on and a reference number.
“Holly explained that the park passes and full Disney information pack would be sent straight to me a few months before the holiday.”
Holly’s sick scam unravelled in March this year, after she offered to help Kerry out yet again.
Kerry gave her £336 for business class flights from Texas to Gatwick Airport for her partner Lee’s father and stepmother to visit from the USA.
But, just three days before they were due to board the plane to the UK, Holly had given Kerry a booking reference number but still had not provided the full check-in details.
As time was running out, Kerry decided to phone British Airways to get the information for herself. That was the sickening moment when she discovered that this booking did not exist – and neither did the upcoming trips to Dubai and Disney.
Kerry said: “I’d been asking Holly for the check-in details for weeks, but she always had an excuse.
“She told me her boyfriend had tidied the paperwork away, and then she had a family emergency, and then the staff booking system just didn’t seem to be working.
“She always told me to never contact the airline about the booking myself, as she could get in trouble for using her staff discount for so many people.
“I was left with no choice though. I needed the check-in details so I phoned the helpline. When the operator told me that my booking reference numbers didn’t exist, I didn’t know what to do.
“So, in desperation I drove an hour to Heathrow Airport. I thought if that’s where Holly worked I’d be able to get to the bottom of things there.
“When the lady on the desk told me that the booking confirmations for my holidays were faked, I broke down. I was physically sick.
“Then she told me that Holly didn’t even work at the airport.
“I thought back to all those times Holly had come to my house after work, wearing what I thought was a British Airways lanyard and neckscarf.
“She told me she worked behind the scenes at the airport in a security job, and we’d laugh about people getting really angry when they missed their flights.
“My stomach lurched as I realised the whole thing had been a sick lie.”
In total, Kerry and her family had handed over £15,796.80 to Holly – including Kerry’s personal loss of £2,388.40.
Kerry said: “The whole thing has been a complete nightmare. I’ve even been prescribed sleeping tablets to help me to cope.
“It was weeks before I could face my family again. I felt so guilty for handing over their money to a scammer. They trusted me, and although they don’t blame me I do blame myself.
“People might say that I should have realised something was up because the tickets were just so cheap, but Holly was so convincing. You don’t expect a friend to betray you in that way.
“She’s never offered an explanation or an apology. I just want to know why she did it.”
On September 2 Holly Barber pleaded guilty at Winchester Crown Court to three charges of fraud. She will be sentenced at Winchester Crown Court on October 15.