Sussex

Brighton meat thief stole 'to fund cocaine habit'

George Hillyer arrives at Lewes Crown Court Image copyright PA
Image caption George Hillyer admitted theft but disputed the amount he had stolen

A salesman stole £175,000 worth of meat from a wholesale butchers to fund his cocaine habit, a court heard.

George Hillyer, from Shoreham, West Sussex, would sneak into the warehouse of Brighton-based RP Meats after-hours to take premium cuts and sell them on.

Hove Crown Court heard he was eventually caught after his employers installed CCTV cameras.

The 24-year-old was given a suspended two-year prison term and ordered to complete 260 hours of unpaid work.

Image copyright Sussex Police
Image caption CCTV of George Hillyer at the Brighton warehouse

The court was told Hillyer confessed to stealing for the best part of a year, from about September 2016 to July 2017.

He later pleaded guilty to theft by an employee but lied about the amount stolen, first suggesting it was to the value of around £30,000.

This figure "gradually escalated" over time and eventually he conceded stealing more than five times his initial claim.

His sentencing was delayed for months while the value was disputed in a series of court hearings.

'No lavish lifestyle'

Recorder Bruce Houlder QC told Hillyer his actions left the future of the company "seriously imperilled" and put the livelihood of his colleagues at risk, including his father who still works there.

He added: "You knew CCTV had been installed but you were not deflected. Your greed clearly got the better of you. You were clearly selling goods to order."

Hillyer, who sobbed as he sat in the dock, will now face another court hearing as he is pursued for £197,000 in compensation to repay the value of the meat stolen and costs incurred.

Ross Talbott, defending, said he showed "genuine remorse" and the crime "would not be repeated".

Mr Talbott said: "He was not living a lavish lifestyle and a life of luxury from the proceeds. He was spending it on himself, his children and his drug habit."

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