A manager who stole £326,000 from his company to fund his chronic gambling addiction has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Daniel Bell, 45, admitted stealing the money from scaffolding company Durston Scaffolding Ltd, which was based in Laindon.

Between June 2015 and July 2016, Bell, who worked for the company as a commercial manager, falsified invoices to companies in order to pay money directly into his own bank account.

The court also heard that Bell was caught attempting to destroy documentation to cover his tracks.

Sentencing him at Basildon Crown Court yesterday, Judge David Owen-Jones said: “I cannot ignore that, although no charges were brought, you had done exactly the same thing some years before and were given a second chance.”

Paul Durston, company director, returned from holiday and discovered the financial discrepancy.

He confronted Bell, who now lives in The Street, Alburgh, Norfolk with facts and recorded the conversation. At that which point Bell, who had worked for the company since 2012, confessed to committing the fraud.

Judge Owen-Jones added: “You did so to fund your chronic gambling habit.

“You were dismissed for gross misconduct and the company was forced into voluntary liquidation, causing massive embarrassment and damaged Mr Durston’s personal reputation.

“He went through hell as a result of this - there’s no doubt about it. His house is up on the market in order to manage his debt and he has sustained stress and depression.”

The court heard that Bell, who is married and has a 13-year-old son, had been addicted to gambling since he was a teenager as his mother had been in a relationship with a bookmaker.

He even went on to own his own betting shop at one stage but it was unsustainable.

Judge Owen-Jones jailed him for two-and-a-half years.

Mr Durston has since managed to set up a new company called Durston Scaffolding Ltd which is based on Canvey but with offices in London Road, Westcliff.