David Bradford’s family was rocked by the bombshell he’d stolen £50,000 from his employer when he was jailed (Image: PA Real Life)

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A dad-of-three who stole £50,000 from his boss when his gambling addiction plunged him into debt has launched a project to help other gambling addicts.

David Bradford from Sheffield was jailed for fraud on his wife Denise's birthday in April 2014 – after hiding his addiction and £500,000 debt from the entire family.

The accountant even hid his own trial from his wife and kids, pretending he was just a witness. When he was convicted and sentenced, his web of lies finally unravelled.

Gripped by a crippling gambling addiction, David had stolen from his employers, taken out loans, had credit card and bank debts and had re-mortgaged his home.

Denise, 69 and their sons Adam, Alex and Ryan were horrified when they learned he had been jailed – finding out from a solicitor's phone call.

Adam and his dad David are using their own experience of gambling addiction and its consequences to help others
(Image: PA Real Life)

Their beloved husband and dad served eight months in prison at HMP Altcourse in Liverpool and lost his £70k-a-year job as a finance controller.

While he was inside, eldest son Adam, now 28, started campaigning for reform in the gambling industry, to help prevent addiction.

When David was released, he began working with his son.

Adam said: "When dad came out of jail he struggled to find work. At one point, he took on freelance delivery driving 100 hours a week to make ends meet, and he has tried to make amends with those he let down.

"While he was in prison, I had to unravel his debts and make a plan to keep the house which we are still paying off.

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"Two days after he was jailed we got a quick 30 second phone call – all he was allowed – after he’d been on the front of the local paper. He was really apologetic, but a shadow of himself.

"I will never forget my mum didn’t want to speak to him and handed the phone to me. All I said was, ‘What’s the password to your email?’ and ‘Where are all the bills kept and what happens next?’ because I had to sort out the huge mess he’d left us with."

Adam said his mum visited David in jail but was angry with him for a long time. But as time went on, she learned to forgive.

Denise and David have been married for years but their relationship was strained when he kept his gambling issues from her
(Image: PA Real Life)

"She felt betrayed, but we have learned it’s not betrayal – he just wanted to do what was best for his family, but when his debts mounted he tried to recover the money for us and lost more."

Since David's release, he and Adam have dedicated their time to helping others battling gambling addiction and have set up the Safer Online Gambling Group. They were also part of the campaign to reduce the maximum stake for fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to £2.

Over the last two years, the pair, along with Ryan, now 25, have developed the BetProtect app which helps people gamble sensibly.

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Their aim is to protect the estimated 430,000 people who are addicted to gambling – and the further two million deemed 'at risk' of addiction.

Adam said: "Even the last seven years since Dad came out of jail has been very difficult for our family, but the terrible impact on us has been the inspiration for our work with the industry to provide an extra layer of support for those at risk.

"Dad said ‘I really want to try and do something to prevent people’s descent into addiction’. This will be his lifelong job now – to make a difference and turning our negative experiences into something positive for others.

Adam and his twin younger brothers, Alex and Ryan, supported their mum Denise when David was in prison
(Image: PA Real Life)

"The aim with the app is for lots of help to come up on gamblers’ screens to educate them early before they need treatment and run up huge debts or in some cases take their own lives.

"They can hear counsellors’ advice anonymously and get lots of information without having to arrange to go to counselling sessions."

According to Adam, his dad thinks if such an app was around when he slipped into a downward spiral, it might have saved him.

He actually never thought he had a problem with his gambling and just thought he was a bit useless with money.

David and Adam have worked with gambling firms and focus groups to develop the app, which supports people who are addicted or at risk of becoming addicted to gambling
(Image: PA Real Life)

“He even had a bet the day of his court case! He only realised he had a problem when the judge told him.”

The family wants the app to combat the "shame and stigma" of admitting there is a problem.

It has "take a break" information which gives gamblers some breathing space to reflect – offering videos, podcasts and advice from counsellors and therapists. It also directs people to clinics and a helpline they can consult.

The family is working with big gambling operators on the app – with the hope of bringing even more on board.

The app collates advice from therapists, 'take a break' information and other resources to help gamblers
(Image: (Collect/PA Real Life))

Its timing couldn't have been better – as the Gambling Commission says there has been a surge in gambling since the first lockdown last year, with 1 in 500 adults saying they'd started gambling for the first time.

David's younger son Ryan said: "Each day after Dad was jailed was spent wondering how we would cover the mortgage and hold off debt collectors. Each day was spent worrying about living on the streets due to the threat of homelessness.

“Each day was a horrendous new experience that led to personal depression of my own, followed by countless sleepless nights, arguments and so much stress.

“Nonetheless, this drove us all to completely change this sense of being stranded that is set in motion when any gambler loses control by creating BetProtect.”

Reflecting on his own addiction issues, David said: "As I never believed I had a gambling problem I never sought help in any form. On reflection, I needed intervention from a trusted source.

“BetProtect is available now to encourage a pause for thought.”