A SHOP worker’s crimes were branded “mean and nasty” by the judge who locked him up for defrauding his boss of almost £45,000.

Judge Jonathan Seely said Alan Gracie’s motive for spending the amount on his employer’s cash and carry card was “greed and dishonesty”.

The items Gracie, 36, bought while his employer grappled with her husband’s terminal cancer diagnosis, never made their way inside the Jaywick Premier Store.

Instead Gracie and his father, who made friends with the sick husband, bought meat, pet food, cigarettes and alcohol from Booker’s stores in Colchester and Clacton.

Judge Seely said: “This was, as has been described in the pre-sentence report, a mean and nasty offence.

“It’s been said this was committed by a 36-year-old man of previous good character because you or your family were in financial difficulties, but it wasn’t a one-off so you’ve not even got that excuse.

“This was a persistent course of conduct you carried out for two years, having exploited the vulnerability of someone who trusted you very much.”

Gracie, of Broadway, Jaywick, received a 32-month sentence after admitting fraud by false representation.

He must pay a £170 victim surcharge but no compensation, although the court heard the businesswoman’s insurance did not cover her for acts of fraud made by employees.

As a result of her ordeal, Mrs Malawartchi, 66, has flashbacks, trouble sleeping and trust issues.

Her husband died in October 2014, but it was not until the summer of 2016 when she noticed the company’s accounts did not add up.

After investigating further she was shown CCTV footage at Booker’s Colchester in February, and identified both Gracie and his dad.

Both of them were at Chelmsford Crown Court for the sentencing.

Mrs Malawartchi’s victim impact statement, read out by prosecutor Suki Dhadda, said: “She very much feels the two people showing her support during the time of her husband’s illness had been taking advantage, which left her at both a financial and emotional disadvantage.

“Thankfully she’s been able to save the business through very difficult times, but that’s been with the support of family and reliable staff.

“She feels deeply betrayed by Mr Gracie and his father.

"She’d invested a lot of time into the business, and really, almost found it unable to cope when she found out what Gracie had done.”