THREE thieves who stole £1,500-worth of alcohol from Waitrose in Northwich by stashing bottles up their sleeves have been jailed.

The trio repeatedly carried alcohol out of the shop in sleeves, pockets and under coats before repeating the trick in Chester at Waitrose and then Tesco, where they were spotted by a CCTV operator and arrested.

Husband and wife Florin and Elena Marin, of St Georges Road in Redditch, Worcestershire – along with Marian Mitica, of the same address – were each sentenced to 40 weeks in prison.

Chester Magistrates Court heard how Mitica had arrived in the UK from Romania just two days before the burglary spree on Tuesday, February 11 this year.

They admitted their crimes to the police and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, but gave conflicting stories to the court – first claiming they intended to sell the alcohol and later saying it would be taken back to cater for a baptism party in Romania.

Sentencing all three to 40 weeks in prison – including three consecutive sentences for the three stores targeted – the chair of the bench also told them they would each be disqualified from driving for 12 months upon release from custody.

Northwich Guardian:

The chairman said: “We feel this was a sophisticated theft, with significant planning, travelling a great distance, and the high value of the goods that were stolen.”

All of the alcohol was recovered by police. Ms Marin and Mitica had one previous conditional caution for shoplifting in Suffolk and Staffordshire, respectively, while Mr Marin was of previous good character.

Magistrates were told that CCTV showed all three entering Northwich Waitrose at Hayhurst Quay separately before convening in the alcohol aisle where Mr Marin removed bottles from boxes before they were handed to his accomplices.

Ms Marin and Mitica were each seen to leave the store on a number of occasions before returning to repeat the trick to a total value of £1516.80.

Northwich Guardian:

After moving on to steal from Waitrose in Chester, they then took a further £106.50 worth of goods from Tesco.

They were spotted on CCTV around 8.30pm in a Chester car park, where officers found bags full of stolen goods in the boot of a Volvo driven by Mr Marin.

Ms Marin was arrested nearby as she tried to leave the area on foot, while Mitica had been apprehended by a Tesco security guard.

The court was told that a custodial sentence would most likely result in the trio returning to Romania, due to reduced prospects in the UK.

Defending, Mark Evans said the three had experienced extreme poverty in their homeland, and had sought a better life here before work dried up.

All three were handed 18-week sentences for the two Waitrose incidents, and a further four-week sentence for the Tesco theft. The sentences will run consecutively.