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Man finds his stolen property on eBay

Steve Hills Whitstable garden warehouse
Steve Hills Whitstable garden warehouse

A Whitstable businessman making price checks on the eBay internet auction site found his own stolen stock up for sale!

Steve Hills- pictured left, who ran a garden furniture warehouse near Whitstable - discovered more than 440 items - including lights, pond pumps, little fountains, thermometers and other equipment up for offer at knockdown prices.

The furious boss then tracked down the seller and realised it was one of his trusted workers - and confronted him.

Canterbury Crown Court heard that Mr Hills was so angry he meted out "summary justice".

Aaron Baker, 33, of Milton Avenue, Margate pleaded guilty to theft and was given a five month jail sentence suspended for two years. He was also ordered to do 120 hours on unpaid work.

Mr Hills - who sat through the 20-minute court hearing - stormed out of the court after the sentence was announced

He said later: "That is just a joke. What he did to my business was appalling and he seems to have escaped justice?

"I was so angry I wanted to shout something in court but I thought it best to leave because what had happened earlier."

Prosecutor Denzil Pugh told how a year ago Baker went to work at the centre near Whitstable and was given a key to the premises.

"Over a period of time Mr Hills formed the view that there were stock degradations but nothing came of his suspicion until two months ago when he went onto the Internet.

"He was looking at eBay primarily to check up on prices charged by the competition.

"He noticed coming up for sale a quantity of items which bore a marked similarity to items from his own stock which had gone missing."

The prosecutor said Baker had stolen 440 items - worth £14,000 - which netted him £6279 in profit from auction sales.

He added: "In today's economic climate that scale of loss could have had potentially catastrophic consequences for small businesses.

"There was an emotional confrontation between the two, which led to Mr Hills, to a minor extent, assaulting Baker but that was not a subject of a charge. The Police were called and Baker then made full admissions."

Since the showdown Baker has given his former employer his car in part payment for the thefts- plus his back pay.

He blamed a former partner for running up "significant" debts for the reason he began stealing from the warehouse.

Jonathan Green, defending, said: "When this matter came to light there was some summary justice which was bestowed upon him by Mr Hills.

"He has now made efforts to reimburse Mr Hills and has given him his £1800 car, £150 cash and £1500 in back pay, " he added.

The judge, Recorder Christopher Oldham told Baker that he had breached the trust of his employer, adding: "The money you stashed away selling goods on eBay, every person in this court could potentially be paying it back because of the knock-on effect..is that prices go up."

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