An 'unprepared and undisguised' thief managed to steal £20,000 from a cash delivery to a shop.

Colin Lathom, 36, along with another man who has yet to be identified followed the driver into a branch of Costcutter on Derby Street, Atherton, on September 23 last year.

There they waited as the driver tried to refill the store’s cash machines before grabbing a cash box at his feet and running off with it, Bolton Crown Court heard.

Jane Dagnall, prosecuting, said: “The cash was hidden at the home of someone who is considered to be vulnerable, who unfortunately is often subject to people using his home for events like these.”

Leigh Journal: Colin Lathom stole the cash in a branch of Costcutter in AthertonColin Lathom stole the cash in a branch of Costcutter in Atherton (Image: Google Maps)

Ms Dagnall told the court how Lathom, who has 22 previous convictions for 35 offences including for robbery and theft, had climbed over a fence along with his accomplice to escape after taking the money.

The court was shown CCTV footage showing Lathom and another man, neither of them appearing to be equipped for any kind of crime, picking up the cash and running off.

But Ms Dagnall added that the thieves were traced after leaving a trail of purple dye leading from where they had stolen the money.

After a police investigation Lathom, of Brierfield Avenue, Atherton, was eventually arrested on January 4 this year.

He pleaded guilty to theft of around £20,000 at the first possible opportunity when brought before the magistrates court.

But the money was never recovered while Lathom, who appeared before the court via video link from prison, has not named the other man involved in the theft.

Neither the prosecution nor the defence knew what had become of the other man since then.

Martin Pizzey, defending, accepted that Lathom had stolen a 'considerable' amount of money but argued that his client’s 'opportunism had got the better of him'.

He said: “It is indeed the case and I accept that cash in transit vans are often targeted.”

But he argued that Lathom’s crime had not been as organised or professional as other case like these.

Though he accepted that a 'considerable' amount of money had been taken, Mr Pizzey pointed out that both thieves were "unprepared and undisguised" and had used neither force nor the threat of force.

He also added that the money had not been recovered because Lathom had spent it 'frivolously'.

Mr Pizzey said: “It will come as no surprise that he did not invest it seriously.”

But Judge Nicholas Clarke KC reminded the court of how much money had been taken and on the effect thefts like these can have on drivers.

Addressing the defendant, he said: “Such cash in transit employees are often targeted for their vulnerability.

“And it seems to me that you went into that shop with no other intentions than sneaking up on him and making good your escape in the way that you did.”

He also noted that Lathom had failed to identify his ‘partner in crime.’

Judge Clarke sentenced the defendant to a total of 16 months in prison.