A THIEF walked out of a Bournemouth bookshop with a till under his arm - only to realise there was nothing inside.

Shaun Lee, of Owls Road in Boscombe, was arrested by a PCSO who spotted him with the till drawer in an alleyway after the theft from Waterstones on the morning November 29 2016.

Just over a month before, on October 15, Lee attempted a near-identical theft from Lloyds Pharmacy in Boscombe.

Prosecuting at Bournemouth Crown Court on Friday, Tim Akers said the defendant spotted an unoccupied till in the pharmacy and tried to open the drawer with a key he had found nearby.

However, the key in fact opened the perfume cabinet.

Lee then dragged the till to the floor and used a tool to cut it free from a cable connecting it to a desk, Mr Akers said.

"A staff member ran over and the defendant left the store," he said.

"There was a scuffle with the staff member, which caused a scratch to her right wrist."

Lee left the area, but returned later that day and was arrested.

The following month, he visited Waterstones, Mr Akers said.

"He managed to obtain a till from inside the store," he said.

"The till itself was empty, as it was never used."

CCTV operatives spotted Lee leaving the bookshop with a "large item" under his arm.

A PCSO patrolling nearby was alerted and the defendant was quickly arrested.

Asked what had happened, Lee said: "I walked in, saw the till and thought, 'I'll take it'."

At the time of the second offence, the defendant, 42, was the subject of a two-year suspended sentence imposed by magistrates just 11 days before for burglary and two counts of shoplifting.

The court heard he had broken into an unoccupied flat in Percy Road and searched through the rooms before stealing various items, including two mountain bikes.

Mitigating, Syan Ventom said Lee spoke with "certainty and eloquence" about his determination to beat a heroin addiction that has "blighted his life".

"He ran out of money for electricity," he said.

"He had to secure funds for food and power."

Lee was committed for sentence at the court after being convicted of theft from a shop, attempted theft from a shop and the commission of a further offence while the subject of a suspended sentence at magistrates' court on November 30.

Judge Peter Crabtree OBE said the defendant has a "lengthy record for dishonesty".

"There was no sophistication or significant planning involved," he said.

"You have proved you are able to remain clean and crime free for a substantial period."

The judge sentenced Lee to a total of two months in prison and a £200 fine.

However, as the defendant has been in prison since late November, he left custody immediately.