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Taxi driver accused of Tesco theft 'thought he was carrying out click and collects'

A TAXI driver accused of repeatedly stealing televisions and electrical equipment from a supermarket believed he was innocently carrying out "click and collects", the High Court heard today.

Stephen McAuley claims he was unaware his passenger was allegedly behind a series of raids on Tesco, a judge was told.

The 42-year-old, of Lancaster Street in Belfast, was refused bail on 11 charges of theft.

He is accused of nine separate shoplifting incidents at Tesco, and also twice taking high-value goods from a B&Q branch.

Items worth more than £7,000 in total were said to have been stolen between January 30 and March 4 this year.

McAuley and a co-defendant allegedly used the same modus operandi each time a branch of the supermarket at Newtownbreda in south-east Belfast was targeted.

Crown lawyer Conor Maguire described one incident where security tags were removed from two TV sets valued at £658.

He claimed they were wheeled away in a trolley and put in the back of the taxi waiting outside.

McAuley was subsequently identified when his cab firm was contacted.

CCTV footage from Tesco revealed a number of similar high-value thefts, the court heard.

Two other incidents related to thefts of products worth £1,236 and £1,298 from a B&Q store in Newry.

Defence barrister Joe Brolly told the court McAuley has always maintained he was just acting as a taxi driver.

"On a number of occasions he has taken that same customer to what he thought was a click and collect," Mr Brolly insisted.

"He said there were no suspicions about the man's behaviour, he wasn't chased by anyone."

Counsel contended that his client contacted detectives to voluntarily provide his details.

"This is, at its height, an aiding and abetting shoplifting in circumstances where he has been open with police from the outset."

Lord Justice Stephens however was denied saying there was no change in circumstances to warrant a release from custody.

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