A THIEF who filled a van with Christmas trees stolen from a garden centre was caught by an eagle eyed CCTV worker.

Stewart Mountney, who claimed he stole because he was depressed over the death of his mother, took £900 worth of trees and pot plants from Wyevale Garden Centre in Rayleigh.

The 56-year-old, of Chalkwell Avenue, Westcliff stole the items on November 28 last year and admitted one count of theft at Southend Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

The prosecutor said: “A CCTV worker was alerted to the incident.

“His van was then searched and seized by police.

“The items come to about £900 and all the items were recovered.

“He has committed no dishonesty crimes since 2013 and has previous convictions for criminal damage.”

In mitigation the court heard: “I don’t understand why it has taken this long for this case to get to court. He has been out of trouble for a long time.

“Last year was a devastating year for Mountney. He lost his mother and became very depressed, he went past the garden centre and decided to take the items.

“There is no rehabilitation requirement in this case. It is a question of punishment.

“He is a man of ill health, he has the lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“He also has family commitments and visits his father regularly when carers can not attend is father’s property.

“I would ask for a curfew to be ordered.”

The chairman of the bench, sentencing, said: “You have pleaded guilty straight away and I will give you credit for that.

“You have got a long history of offending behaviour.

“I am satisfied that I can deal with these matters with a community order.

“You will be monitored by an electronic tag for a month and you must not leave your property between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

“If you wish to leave your home during those hours you must let the court know.

“You must pay costs of £190 and that will be deducted from your benefits and I am making a deduction of benefits order.

“The department of work and pensions will decide how much is deduced and how often.”