Shoppers were astounded to see a bound man paraded through the streets with a sign around his neck claiming he was a thief.

The shocking scenes were witnessed in Witham on Friday afternoon as men led the accused – with his hands tied behind his back – to the police station.

Shoppers in Newland Street looked on in amazement as Mark Gilbert, of Nayland Road, Colchester, was escorted to Witham police station by colleagues from In-house Flooring, based in the town.

The 39-year-old was taken from the back of a van with his hands tied behind his back and wearing a placard which read: “Thief. I stole £845. Am on my way to police station.”

Company owner Simon Cremer was one of those accompanying Mr Gilbert.

A statement from Essex Police said three men had been arrested after the incident.

They are: a 39-year-old man, of Colchester, on suspicion of theft; and a 44-year-old man, of Halstead, and a 22-year-old man, of Witham, both on suspicion of false imprisonment, assault and theft.

A 41-year-old man, of Maldon, and a 42-year-old man, of Colchester, were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of false imprisonment. All are on police bail until November 27, pending further inquiries.

* In-House Flooring has been given three months’ notice to leave its premises following the incident.