A SHOPLIFTER who stole clothing worth almost £280 from Carlisle’s TK Maxx store was caught thanks to the vigilance of an off-duty police officer.

At the city's Rickergate court, 29-year-old Andrew Ritchie admitted the theft, which came to light on September 28 last year. The defendant was seen by the off-duty officer in the grounds of Carlisle Cathedral.

He was with another man who is also being prosecuted.

“He was comparing items which appeared to have all of their shop tags still on,” said prosecutor Peter Kelly at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court.

“The officer was concerned and contacted his colleagues.”

Police later checked CCTV footage from the store and this confirmed that the defendant, of Leyland Lane, Lancashire, had taken three jackets.

The court heard that Ritchie’s criminal record includes 27 previous thefts. He appeared before the court from custody because he is now serving a 16-week jail term for similar offending.

Magistrates told Ritchie that more time in jail would not help his situation. They fined him £120, with £85 costs and a £48 victim surcharge.

As the case ended, Ritchie said: “I need to take the right path and get off the path I’m on.”