A SMILING thief stole £8,000 worth of cosmetics during 'targeted' raids on Worcester's Boots store during the Covid-19 crisis.

In total Cornel Gheorghe stole £8,226 worth of high value cosmetics from the chemist's in the High Street in Worcester, sweeping the shelves into a bag during three separate raids in under two weeks.

The 34-year-old grinned in court as he admitted three offences of theft, relaying his guilty pleas through a Romanian interpreter when he appeared before magistrates in Worcester on Thursday.

The first theft took place on October 19 this year when he stole £4,494 of cosmetic items. Further thefts from the same shop followed on October 26 when he stole £2,748 of cosmetics and November 2 when he stole £984 of cosmetics.

Shafquat Reaz, prosecuting, said: "The defendant has targeted that store in particular and has taken cosmetics of a high value."

The prosecutor argued that the case was so serious it should be dealt with at crown court, telling magistrates it involved the theft of items worth over £7,000 and that the offences were aggravated by his persistence in targeting the shop.

Although he said Gheorghe had no previous convictions he argued that 'the nature and tenacity of these offences place it outside the jurisdiction of the magistrates court'.

Despite the defendant operating alone, he invited the bench to consider the 'gravity of the offences' and that the shop was being managed by a restricted number of staff during the pandemic.

However, Glenn Cook, defending, disagreed and argued that magistrates should retain jurisdiction.

"The value is some £7,000. It's not £30,000 or £50,000 plus" said the advocate.

He added: "There's no suggestion at all that he has either used or made any threats of force. The nature of the offending is not, in my submission, in any way sophisticated and does not require any particular level of planning. He simply sweeps items of cosmetics off the shelf and puts them into a bag and walks out."

Mr Cook also said although he did not belittle the seriousness of the offence magistrates should bear in mind that the impact of the thefts would be less significant than on a smaller independent shop. There was nothing to suggest his client was 'stealing the items to order', he said.

But Mr Reaz said: "He targets high value goods. He knows exactly what he's doing."

Arguing that the thefts were 'not merely opportunistic', he added: "Who pays the cost? We do."

Magistrates declined jurisdiction for the case because their powers were not deemed sufficient and the thefts involved 'significant planning'.

The case was adjourned until Friday, December 18 when a further hearing is scheduled to take place at Worcester Crown Court. Bail was granted on condition that Gheorghe of Sutherland Road, Enfield, does not enter any Boots store for any reason.

Magistrates ordered a pre-sentence report to be prepared by the probation service to assist the sentencing judge.