A BARBER shop owner who splashed out thousands of pounds on gambling after a stolen £26,000 cheque ended up in his bank account has escaped being locked up.

Klaus Kluver, 43, admitted theft of the cheque which was posted by a small New Milton company to a supplier on November 30 last year.

Prosecuting at Bournemouth Crown Court, Desmond Duffy said an investigation had been launched after the cheque failed to arrive at its intended destination.

Enquiries revealed that it had gone into Kluver’s bank account on December 1.

Mr Duffy added: “Within the space of 10 days the money had all gone. Police managed to trace Mr Kluver to a hotel on Bournemouth West Cliff and he was arrested on December 18. More than £2,000 was recovered from his room.”

Kluver denied any knowledge of the stolen cheque but later told officers he had been approached by a man, he knew only as Anton, who had found the cheque beside a Christchurch post box and asked if he could pay it into his account.

The man was caught on camera putting the cheque into Kluver’s bank account but never traced by police.

Mr Duffy said: “Most of the money was gambled away. The New Milton company involved has been compensated by the bank which is the loser in this case.”

In Kluver’s defence, Nick Robinson said: “He is a man of previous good character who wants to repay every penny of the money he very foolishly spent. It was not him who put the money into his bank account – it was someone else.”

Imposing a 51-week prison sentence, suspended for two years, the Rt Hon Mr Justice Field told Kluver: “You knew perfectly well what you were doing; this was an act of serious dishonesty, motivated by greed.”

Kluver from Cleveland Road, Bournemouth, was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £23,000 compensation to Lloyds Bank at a rate of £120 a month.