A man who attempted to steal more than £700 worth of coats from TK Maxx in Newmarket was told he was lucky to escape jail.

Marian Draghici, 52, appeared in Suffolk Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, on charges of theft of clothing to the value of £716.93 and going to the store equipped for theft, namely a ‘det-tagging device’.

The court heard that Draghici, of no fixed abode, had been living between the UK and his native Romania for the past four to five years.

The court heard, Draghici was seen entering the store, picking up a basket and selecting some coats before meeting up with another man.

He then used the de-tagging device to remove the security tags from several items, before putting them in a large sports direct bag.

The tags were collected by a security guard who confronted the pair. The other man, whose name Draghici did not reveal, left the store, while Draghici was detained.

His defence solicitor, Mr Kendall, said that Draghici was the breadwinner for his wife and four children, the youngest of whom was aged 17.

However, he had been “embarrassed” to have had no source of income for a period of some months, and intended to take the coats home to Romania as presents.

Speaking through an interpreter, Draghici pleaded guilty to both offences and said that he was “very sorry”.

He was given a sentence of 12 weeks for each offence, suspended for a period of 18 months, and ordered to pay half of the £716 in compensation, as well as court charges, an amount totalling £657.

The presiding magistrate told Draghici that should he fail to pay or commit any other offences, “you will find yourself in an English prison”.

“It was touch and go as to whether you went to prison today,” he said.