A EMPLOYEE at a Thatchers Cider factory was caught stealing the stock - and getting orders to send to his home, a court heard.

Colin King, 60, was a "trusted" worker of the company for five years and was responsible for handling email orders and customer deliveries.

But King helped himself to cider from work - creating false orders to send cider to his own home under false names.

In December 2017, after receiving an anonymous tip-off about thefts, Thatchers managing director Martin Thatcher spot-checked King's car.

He found a number of cases of cider in his boot, Bristol Crown Court heard.

King, of Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, was dismissed from the company, which is based in Sandford, North Somerset.

The 60-year-old, who now works as a hotel porter, was due to face trial on Thursday (August 22).

But he pleaded guilty to fraud by falsifying or altering orders, between September 1, 2017, and December 21, 2017.

King was spared jail, with Judge Michael Longman instead handing him a 12-month community order with 160 hours' unpaid work.

He was also ordered to pay £500 compensation and £1,000 towards court costs, at £100 per month.

Ian Fenny, prosecuting, said King worked at the firm from 2012.

Mr Fenny told the court: "He was in a position of trust, an employee who received a great deal of support when he had been through difficult times."

In February 2017, however, the company received an anonymous telephone call alerting it to thefts taking place.

Mr Fenny said: "There was a discreet investigation by the managing director's personal assiatant.

"The investigation led to the defendant being responsible at least for some of the thefts and disposal of stock."

In December 2017 it was decided to spot-check King, and particularly his car, the court heard.

It was then that a check was made and King's car boot was found to contain numerous cases of cider.

Mr Fenny said King had been responsible for handling email orders and customer deliveries, and had the ability to create false orders and dispatch cider to his home.

He pleaded guilty to fraud on the basis he used his position to create false orders and send cider to his own home using false names to try to cover his tracks.

Alec Small, defending, said the real shock for the company was that King was stealing, rather than the amount of stock taken.

Mr Small said at the time his client's family members had serious medical issues and King turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Mr Small told the court: "He was always going to get caught.

"It is one thing to use a false name. It is another thing to use false names and send things to your own address.

"It was a catastrophic error on his part."