A shop security officer spotted a professional shoplifter at work in his store at the very moment when he was showing a detective CCTV footage of an earlier theft by the same man.
Alan Webber was arrested at the Coop shop in Exeter at the end of a year-long crime spree in which he stole high value goods and sold them to feed his crack cocaine habit.
The 35-year-old serial thief has been given a final chance to beat his addiction after being freed from Exeter Crown Court and ordered to attend rehabilitation.
Webber stole more than £5,000 goods from shops in Seaton, Sidmouth and Exeter and was branded as a ‘real nuisance’ by a judge.
He has a long history of petty crime and has been to jail several times before for similar shoplifting offences.
Webber, of Everest Drive, Seaton, admitted burglary, six count of theft and asked for another 12 shopliftings to be taken into consideration.
He was jailed for two years, suspended for two years and ordered to receive drug rehabilitation treatment as part of 12 months supervision by Recorder Mr James Waddington.
Miss Eleanor Purkiss, prosecuting, said Webber had carried out thefts at shops including Sport and Leisure in Seaton, he Coop in Sidmouth, and Boots and the Coop in Exeter.
He took £424 worth of fishing reels at the Seaton store and cosmetics, gift sets, alcohol and food at the others and the total value came to £5,683.
He was arrested on January 14 in Exeter when he returned to the same Coop shop he raided in July. In the meantime he broke into the Boots shop at Exe Bridges where he was caught by a nightwatchman.
Miss Purkiss said:”On that occasion he stole goods worth £1,051.32 and was caught on CCTV. The store security staff were reviewing the footage with a police officer when they saw the same man in the store selecting items and removing tags.
“He was arrested and has since made full and frank admissions and cooperated with the police to clear up all his outstanding offences.”
Mr Edward Bailey, defending, said Webber had been assessed as suitable for drug rehabilitation despite failing to attend a single appointment when sent on a similar course in May last year.
He said Webber has recently become a father and is determined to turn his back on heroin and crack cocaine to give himself a chance of being with his child, who is currently with foster parents.
Recorder Mr Waddington told Webber:”You are a real nuisance to your community because you are a professional shoplifter and have been for many years.
“You have been to prison numerous times and it is clear the primary motivation arises from your drug addiction. It is in the interests of the community in the long term that you deal with that.”