A FORMER prisoner burgled the shop where he worked, stealing £4,000 of goods including watches and mobile phones belonging to customers.

Whilst in prison, drug dealer Stephen Owen, of Highfield Mews, Darwen, was selected to work for key-cutting and shoe repair company Timpsons as part of its scheme to give offenders a second chance.

Bolton Crown Court heard he had worked at the shop for less than three months when he let himself into the building on the night of January 13.

He raided the safe, taking £360, three watches and two phones belonging to customers, along with 18 Zippo lighters.

The items belonging to customers included a Gucci watch valued at £900 and a Raymond Weil watch worth £500.

Simon Blakebrough, prosecuting, said staff had locked the shop, but the next morning the shutters were found to be up, the alarm switched off, front door and safe open.

In-shop CCTV footage showed 38-year-old Owen was the intruder and he was arrested on February 2 after handing himself into police. The court heard that, in the weeks he had worked at the shop, Owen was liked by colleagues and had even been trusted to take sums of cash to the bank.

But on the night of the burglary, Owen had a row with his partner and left home in a taxi to go to Leigh. He told police that he then realised he did not have the money to pay the fare and so stopped off at the shop.

Martin Pizzey, defending, said the theft was a spur of the moment decision. He added: “He did not plan to break the trust of his employers or make a mess of the chance he had been given.

“He acted very foolishly and regrets that very much.”

Father-of-one Owen had been released from jail part way through serving a three-year sentence for dealing heroin.

Sentencing Owen to six months in prison for the burglary at Timpsons in Market Street, Bolton, Recorder Karen Brody said dishonesty was ‘deeply ingrained’ in him.

She added: “You let a lot of people down. Nobody is going to give you that chance again.”

Owen was on a scheme operated by Timpsons to give offenders a chance of employment once released The scheme has been operating for 11 years and up to 10 per cent of the company’s workforce are former prisoners.

Timpsons Foundation Ambassador, Darren Burns, said: “It is something we are extremely proud of and incidents like this are extremely rare.”