A CRACK cocaine addict threatened to stab shopworkers with an imaginary knife after stealing a quantity of food at 3.30am.

Christopher Cummings pretended that he was reaching for a blade from his back pocket as petrol station staff challenged him on the forecourt.

The 31-year-old — who was on a month-long shoplifting spree to fund his habit — then fled on foot with the basket of groceries.

He will now spend Christmas in prison after a sheriff imposed a seven-month sentence to begin when an existing jail term for other offences ends at the beginning of December.

Prosecutor Frankie Morgan told Greenock Sheriff Court how Cummings made the stab threat at the BP filling station on the town's Regent Street.

Fiscal depute Mr Morgan said: "At 3.30am the accused attended and appeared to be in an intoxicated state in the company of his co-accused Louise Holland.

"He spoke briefly to staff and attempted to buy cigarettes with his card, which was declined.

"The accused then went to the fridge area and put food in a basket.

"He walked towards the exit and said 'Bye' prior to leaving."

The court heard that when he was followed outside by staff, Cummings put the basket down and shouted: "Mon then, I'll stab you."

He was positively identified from a sheet of police issue photos.

Cummings and accomplice Holland, 25, were charged with stealing food, meat, candles, clothes, household items and cosmetics from several shops in Greenock and Gourock during March and April.

The pair, of Belville Street, were accused of targeting M&S food, Sally, Card Factory, Savers, Poundland, New Look, Iceland, Home Bargains, the Co-op and Sainsbury's Local.

Cummings pleaded guilty to six of a total of 12 charges on the complaint after prosecutors accepted pleas of not guilty on the others following negotiations with defence lawyer Gerry Keenan.

He was jailed in June after stealing a doctor's bank card and also using discarded till receipts outside shops to get 'refunds' for goods he took from shelves matching the items on the slips.

Mr Keenan said of the shoplifting raids: "He tells me that when he committed the offences he was struggling with an addiction to crack cocaine and he could not rid himself of it.

"He stole to fund the habit.

"He says he is thankful for being in custody at present because if he was not he would probably be dead."

Mr Keenan added: "There was no weapon. He made the comment in the heat of the moment and regrets it and accepts it would have caused alarm."

Sheriff Daniel Kelly said: "I consider custody to be the only appropriate disposal."

A warrant has been issued for co-accused Holland's arrest after she failed to turn up for court.