A Carlisle catalogue store worker who was caught on camera acting suspiciously has admitted stealing phones worth almost £1,300.

The city’s magistrates’ court heard that father-of-two James Andrew Main carried out the offences as his life was falling apart, with drug dealers putting him under pressure to settle a cocaine debt.

He was also battling to come to terms with a bereavement and a relationship breakdown.

Pam Ward, prosecuting, said suspicions were first raised when the customer services manager at the Kingstown branch of Argos noticed that Main, 34, appeared to be nervous when around her.

As a result, managers checked CCTV footage from the storeroom.

It showed Main was moving various phones from shelf to shelf.

He was also seen wiping the phone’s boxes after handling them - as if trying to remove fingerprints.

The observations were continued between April 23 and May 3 last year.

One piece of footage showed the defendant removing a phone from its box and putting it in his jacket pocket.

When confronted, Main admitted stealing three phones: an Apple iPhone 6 and two Samsung phones.

When he was interviewed by the police, the defendant, of Crosshill Drive, Morton, said he had been drinking heavily, and taking drugs.

This was due to a relationship breakdown and the death of his father, he told officers.

Sean Harkin, for the defendant, said: “At the time of these offences, his life was falling apart.

“He’d split from his partner, and taken on a drugs debt - hence the reason he committed these offences.|”

A probation officer in court outlined what she learned from interviewing Main.

After his relationship ended, in upsetting circumstances, he moved in with his mother.

Emotionally under strain, he began drinking and taking cocaine.

“It came to the point where his mum was paying for everything,” said the probation officer.

“In the end, he had a £1,500 debt and when he was in town...he would have people coming up to him and demanding money and threatening violence.

“That’s when he began to steal the phones.”

He could see no way out of his situation, but now he had stopped drinking and taking cocaine and his mother had helped repay his debts.

The officer added:”He is extremely sorry.”

Magistrates said they were considering a jail sentence but they accepted he was changing his life. They imposed a 12-month community order, with a six-month 8pm to 7am curfew.

He must also complete 10 rehabilitation days and pay costs of £85, and a victim surcharge of the same amount.