A 77-year-old woman is facing theft charges after pocketing a roll of gift stamps she says she mistook for tape at the Mannings pharmaceutical chain where she worked as a cleaner for over a decade.

Mannings has claimed that the gift stamps – which customers can save up in exchange for gifts – each cost HK$50, meaning that the roll of around 600 gift stamps were worth around HK$30,000.

West Kowloon Magistrates Courts. File photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

The case was heard on Wednesday at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court. According to the charges, the incident took place on July 21 last year at the Tsuen Kam Centre branch.

The woman, Li Suk-hing, said she suffers from poor eyesight and did not wear her glasses that day. According to Li, she found a roll under the cashier at work; believing it to be tape, she put it into her pocket to wrap up rubbish later. However, the day’s work involved unboxing materials and she rushed off to her next job with the roll still in her bag. She only discovered that they were a roll of gift stamps later in the evening.

The next morning, she placed the gift stamps back in the original place. But a security guard stopped her before she left work, searched her bag and claimed to have found a roll of gift tapes and 10 other stamps scattered around. The security guard insisted that it was theft and called the police, Apple Daily reported.

A Mannings store in Hong Kong. Photo: Wikicommons.

However, CCTV footage obtained by the defence showed that the defendant did put the roll back in place, and Li also said that the scattered stamps were related to her own purchases. She said she did not have any habit of saving them, and added she would not know what to do with them. The defence said this shows Li did not appropriate the property with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.

After the defence obtained the footage, the security guard did not mention the bag search in her second testimony and said Li had then admitted to the theft.

Li is a divorcee and was working four part-time cleaning jobs – three of which were at Mannings branches – because she did not wish to apply for social welfare. She has since been asked to leave her jobs at the Mannings stores.

The verdict will be announced on January 26.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.