A PROLIFIC shoplifter went on an “unstoppable spree” of thefts to feed his drug addiction.

Christopher Burke, 39, targeted three BP garages in Westcliff and Rayleigh, stealing food and alcohol to sell on the black market and fund his addiction.

While committing the thefts throughout last October, Burke was subject to a criminal behaviour order which banned him from entering any BP garages in Essex.

Burke, of Whitegate Road, Southend, pleaded guilty to all offences and was jailed for a year during a sentencing hearing at Basildon Crown Court.

Grant Vanstone, prosecuting, said: “These incidents involved the thefts of wine or food of a mid-range value ranging from £36-70.

“The total loss of the garages from the theft amount to £1,615.”

The court heard of Burke’s drug habit during his mitigation.

Matthew Keliris-Thomas said: “Mr Burke obtains £260 through his benefits but he is still living homeless on the streets and funding his drug habit and other means of supporting himself through theft.

“It’s clear from the repeated nature of his offences that Mr Burke is genuinely struggling to break free of his troubles despite previous help.

“It is not his intention to cause harm and it is not something he enjoys, quite frankly.”

In mitigation, the court also heard that Mr Burke lost custody of his children, which led to use of drugs to cope before spiralling into a deeper addiction.

Mr Keliris-Thomas added: “Mr Burke has acknowledged the seriousness of these breaches but there is no indication of harassment towards staff.

“He simply takes things and leaves and what I would say is in scenarios similar to Mr Burke’s, people do a stint in custody and come out with no options and money, ultimately falling back into problems.”

Judge Samantha Cohen addressed Burke before sentencing him.

She said: “In November and December of last year, you embarked on what seems to be sort of an unstoppable shoplifting spree.

“People who work in service stations are quite vulnerable as there is usually only one or two of them.

“They are open into the early hours of the morning and every time you come to their shop they know you are there to steal, which must cause serious anxiety.”