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Freddie Flintoff has confessed to stealing expensive goods, including PlayStations, when he worked at Woolworths in the 1990s.
The cricketer and TV presenter would pass on the consoles to friends and said he saw his thefts as "Robin Hood-style heroics, looking after the poorer families of the North West”.
Flintoff made the revelations in his new autobiography The Book of Fred, reported via the Mirror.
He wrote: "I found out about a very helpful technical term early on in my career in the retail industry called ‘shrinkage’.
“I think it was designed to take care of damaged goods or faulty items that were returned to the store... a percentage, if you like, that was written into the profit and loss to account for stuff going wrong."
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Flintoff added: "Customers would come in who I happened to know and it just so happened the items they were selecting somehow didn’t go through the till accurately. In fact, they didn’t go through at all.
"It was Christmas after all and the people I was looking out for couldn’t afford a PlayStation. In my mind, I was doing a good deed and I stand by it to this day."
The 43-year-old joked that, if other staff members were using similar tricks, that may well have played into the financial troubles that led Woolworths to close in 2008.
"I knew it was time to stop when a guy I didn’t know came up to me, winked at me and asked for a PlayStation. He had no means to pay for it," he said.
Flintoff retired from professional cricket in 2010 and then returned to the game for a short period, after briefly attempting a career in boxing – winning his only professional fight.
He then embarked on a TV career, joining the Sky panel show A League of Their Own and subsequently hosting sport-based game show Cannonball in 2017.
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In 2019, he joined the Top Gear presenting line-up alongside Paddy McGuinness and existing presenter Chris Harris.
The show's ratings jumped after he and McGuinness's arrival, with the most recent series in spring 2021 managing an average of 6.42 million viewers.
Top Gear will return for its 31st series in November.
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