A SHOPLIFTER stole nearly £4,000 worth of merchandise in series of raids on stores at Port Glasgow's retail park.

Rosemary Oliver repeatedly snatched high value products from Watt Brothers and Marks & Spencer between February and September last year.

The 53-year-old thief passed off her plundering as a 'victimless crime'.

But she then told a sentencing hearing that she had been at the mercy of ruthless moneylenders.

Greenock Sheriff Court heard how she stole a total of £3,832 worth of items — with the individual thefts coming to £1,400, £693, £494, £760 and £483 respectively.

Police eventually traced Oliver to her home address via the registration plate on her car, and she was also identified from in-store CCTV footage.

Prosecutor Frankie Morgan said: "On climbing the landing stairs, officers had a good view into a bedroom which had a volume of clothing which was brand new with the labelling attached.

"A search warrant was obtained and a number of items were seized as stolen property."

Oliver's lawyer, Charles Drummond, told the court that she owed £4,000 to moneylenders after getting into debt 'principally as a result of drinking'.

Mr Drummond said: "The long and short of it is that she is a person who has not been without her difficulties over the years.

"Threats had been made to Mrs Oliver by plainly criminal individuals and she was fearful.

"Certain people were hovering around to ensure that she did what she has done."

But Sheriff Derek Hamilton refused to accept that version of events.

The sheriff said: "The difficulty I have is that this was a high value shoplifting operation, there is no evidence of anyone else being involved and she made no comment at her police interview.

"Now she says in the background report that she was made to do all this.

"I'm not prepared to accept these comments without further evidence.

"Her attitude is that this was a victimless crimes and didn't really matter — that is not a great attitude."

Oliver, whose address was not given in court, stole large quantities of clothes, cosmetics, toiletries, clipper sets, candles, make-up brushes and phones.

Her pleas of not guilty to a further two alleged thieving sprees at the retail park during the timeframe of her criminality were accepted.

Following a separate hearing for Oliver to further explain the reasons behind her shoplifting she was spared prison and ordered to complete 270 hours of unpaid work within 12 months.