A NURSE strolled out of court to loud applause after being acquitted of forging bogus hospital records to snatch sedatives.

A jury of seven men and five women found Leona Bellhouse not guilty of pinching a ‘large quantity’ of midazolam while she was working at the John Radcliffe’s Hospital’s gynaecology department.

Sighs of relief were quietly muttered in the public gallery when jurors delivered their majority verdict after six hours and 26 minutes’ deliberating.

Walking out of the court room after hearing her fate today, a crowd of family and friends swarmed Bellhouse, becoming teary-eyed as they congratulated her.

Prosecutors alleged she helped herself to the sedatives for ‘personal use’ during a 14-month stint.

During the trial at Oxford Crown Court, prosecutor Damian van Duyvenbode said the 59-year-old crafted false entries in a medical register as a ‘cover up’ after stealing the drugs, used as an anaesthetic before surgery.

He claimed she used real names of patients treated in the department but forged doctor’s signatures to grab hold of the drugs, which were kept in a locked cupboard.

Taking the stand to refute the claims, Bellhouse told jurors she was not responsible for the ‘fraudulent’ entries in the logbook for the drug.

She claimed signatures of her initials beside an entry in the logbook, as well as in a book used to sign out keys for locked medical cupboards, were not hers.

Telling jurors she would usually just sign the letter ‘B’, she said: “If I was going to steal it why would I put my own initials in anyway?”

The nurse, of Kingston Road, Frilford, Abingdon, also revealed she thought she may have been ‘set up’.

During the trial, hospital porter Stephen Jacob said he was cleaning after medics had left for the day when the defendant appeared.

He told the court he heard ‘rustling’ before finding drugs packaging thrown into the bin he had emptied moments before Bellhouse arrived.

But the nurse told jurors midazolam came in orange boxes and Mr Jacob claimed he had spotted brown packaging in the bin.

Consultant neurosurgeon Richard Kerr deemed Bellhouse ‘honest, trustworthy, [and] very dependable’, while colleague Theresa Lowry told the court the defendant was a ‘hard-working’ and dedicated nurse.

Bellhouse had denied theft of the drug from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust between May 1, 2014, and July 8, 2015.