Thief bought travel tickets so he could steal expensive duty free in 'sophisticated' operation

A duty free thief has been locked up, after he was caught stealing over £7,000 worth of perfume, aftershave, cigarettes and whisky.

Michael Gales, 34, bought plane tickets and travelled by ferry to steal the high value goods. He was caught after staff at the World Duty Free in Newcastle noticed gaps in perfume displayed on the shelves.

Whilst on a ferry from Calais, Gales ran down to the car deck with his stolen haul, pushing passengers queuing on the stairs out of the way. Staff chased him and he was arrested at Dover.

At Heathrow airport, he was captured on CCTV stashing a £1,245 bottle of whisky under his jacket, before boarding a flight to Dublin. On Friday, Gales arrived at Teesside Crown Court to be sentenced for the thefts.

He failed to appear in court last week, claiming an ankle injury had left him immobile. Gale's thefts were from a P&O ferry on July 7:

  • £1,910 worth of perfume and £839 of aftershave

  • GHD hair straighteners valued at £129

From World Duty Free at Newcastle Airport on December 17:

  • £240 of cigarettes

  • £3,509 worth of perfume

From World Duty Free at Heathrow Airport on December 22:

  • £1,245 bottle of Bushmills Causeway Collection whisky

Gales, of Windermere Road in Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to the thefts at an earlier hearing. He has previous convictions for stealing in Holland and Poland; and 31 convictions for 60 offences in the UK.

In 2017, Gales was part of a gang of builders who defrauded pensioners out of their savings. He served a four-year prison term.

In mitigation, Kelly Clarke told the court that Gales claimed he was coerced into stealing by others. She said that her client suffers from ligament damage in his legs, after a car crash. He had to give up his job as a cable puller and now lives on personal independence payments.

Ms Clark said that Gales plays an active role as a parent and that his children live with their respective mothers.

Judge Aisha Wadoodi told Gales: "This wasn't you wondering into a shop and stealing a jar of coffee. You bought boarding cards on two occasions and a ticket for a ferry - to steal high value goods.

"This is sophisticated and planned. These offences are serious and you have tried to come up with a story that you were threatened. This justifies a prison sentence."

Gales was jailed for five-months.

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