A HAPLESS thief was taken down by an off-duty police officer after trying to sneak booze-filled trollies out of Herefordshire supermarkets twice in the same day.

Hereford Magistrates were told that Gediminas Alijosius, 31, piled up more than £700 of spirits – disguising it by laying packets of crisps on top of the trolley – before attempting to walk out of the front door of the city's Morrisons store.

Having attempted the same stunt just hours earlier at the supermarket’s Leominster branch, store security had been put on the look-out for Alijosius’ three-man team.

And while the crew had fled as soon as they were challenged in the first instance, Alijosius’ escape from Hereford was thwarted when an off-duty policeman took down the thief as he ran from the scene.

“They were obviously doomed to failure,” Chris Read, defending, told the court.

“The Leominster manager had already called local stores to warn them about the group.”

Alijosius, a Lithuanian who had moved to the UK in late 2013, was out of work and “living day-to-day” at the time of the attempted theft on February 27, Mr Read added.

Offered £100, Alijosius – who lives at Bayswater Crescent in Leeds – was driven to Herefordshire by two men who were to act as look-out and getaway driver.

However his part in planning the heist was limited to “turning up on time and sitting in a car”, added Mr Reid.

Peter Love, prosecuting, told the court that the two accomplices were spotted by security just outside the Leominster store apparently communicating with one another on mobile phones.

Suspicious, a security guard challenged Alijosius, who fled immediately leaving a trolley stacked with around £320 of alcohol.

Unsuccessful, the team tried again at around 8:45pm in Hereford, Mr Love said.

This time Alijosius, pushing a trolley with a value of more than £700, was challenged at the door by the store manager, but his attempt to run was brought to an abrupt halt by the off-duty officer.

When more police arrived he admitted his actions were dishonest and that he was attempting to steal the items.

CCTV matched the three men to the Leominster incident and Alijosius, the only one to be apprehended, pleaded guilty to both counts.

He received a conditional discharge for 18 months and was handed £100 in costs – the same amount he would have been paid had he been successful.

Alijosius – who already had a conviction for shop theft – was told by head magistrate Lavinia Sole that this was regarded as a serious offence, due to the planning involved and the high value of the goods.