A GAMBLING addict stole around 2,000 bottles of Estee Lauder fragrance from his employers that would have sold for £203,000 in the shops.

Paul Deacon started selling the bottles of Tom Ford smellies for £2 to £3, but then charged between £20 and £30 for the items on eBay, Taunton Crown Court heard.

Deacon, of Stowey Road, Taunton, admitted raking in £39,760 from flogging a total of 1,988 of the personal care items he stole from Swallowfield to fund his betting habit.

The court heard that as project management manager in the purchasing department at the Wellington-based firm where he had worked for 26 years, he ordered in goods.

Somerset County Gazette:

He increased the order numbers of Estee Lauder products from the Czech Republic from around six boxes a time to between 20 and 35, taking many of them home in his car.

After suspicions were raised about the disappearance of Estee Lauder products at Swallowfield, bosses spotted Deacon, 42, taking four boxes to his car after the arrival of another consignment, William Hunter, prosecuting told the court.

Harry Ahuja, defending, said Deacon stole the fragrance to try to pay off debts from "a very serious gambling habit", but he still owes £48,000.

Judge David Ticehurst jailed Deacon for two years suspended for two years, ordered him to carry out 180 hours unpaid work and said he must sell his only asset, a car valued at £300, under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

But he will not have to pay any compensation due to lack of funds.

The judge told Deacon: "You've lost everything - your job, your reputation, your marriage and effectively your daughter.

"The effect on your family as a result of your addiction has been absolutely devastating.

"You have lost all those important things and a vast amount of money to bookmakers.

"Idiots like you who become addicted carry on doing it and then they don't know what to do."

The judge added: "I think you probably are a decent, competent man.

"I hope you can rebuild your life and your marriage. You have a great uphill task."