TWO men and a woman have admitted stealing thousands of pounds worth of booze from supermarkets in Chester and Northwich.

Elena Marin, 30, Florin Marin, 42 and Marian Mitica, 30, all of St George's Road, Redditch, all pleaded guilty to a series of shoplifting offences when they appeared at Chester Magistrates Court on Thursday, February 13.

The trio will be sentenced later this month and were remanded into custody.

Prosecuting, Rob Youds told the court the total value of items stolen amounted to about £7,500.

A CCTV operator had become suspicious when seeing a Volvo parked at the Iceland car park in Frodsham Street at 8.30pm on Tuesday, February 11, where two men and a woman were seen with a large number of carrier bags.

All three were seen walking off towards Tesco and police pulled up to prevent the car leaving.

Florin Marin was the driver of the Volvo at the time police arrived and officers told her to switch the engine off.

The boot of the car was full of bags with alcohol bottles, some with the tags still on them.

Elena Marin had tried to leave the scene but was arrested, while Mitica was detained in the store, having been found concealing bottles of alcohol.

All three defendants admitted shoplifting, with £1,516.80 of goods stolen from Waitrose in Northwich and nearly £6,000 more stolen from Waitrose in Chester.

Elena Marin and Mitica had one previous conditional caution for shoplifting, while Florin Marin was of previous good character.

Defending, Mark Evans said: "I suppose the moral of the story is that the grass is not always greener on the other side, and the streets of the UK are not paved with gold.

"People who leave their countries in very difficult circumstances in order to try and find a better life and better income, [but] the streets are often filled with zero-hour contracts, exploitation and poverty."

Elena and Florin Marin had come to the UK from Romania six months ago and found work in a frozen food factory, with long hours and low wages, and while Elena Marin had consistent work, Florin Marin did not and was struggling to pay the bills.

This was exacerbated by having a one-year-old child in Romania with diabetes, while Florin Marin had a child from a previous marriage who required support. In addition, sadly, Elena Marin has HIV and was struggling to get medical treatment, Mr Evans added.

Mitica, who had two children at home, had come to the UK two days ago, having been in the UK before, was struggling to find work and had gone to Chester "to visit friends".

The decision was made to shoplift.

Mr Evans added: "I'm personally exceptionally surprised they were not caught earlier; they are effecitvely stuffing bottles up their coats and jumpers in a particularly unsophisticated manner.

"Once caught, they made full admissions, guilty pleas and their significant remorse has been clear.

"All the property was recovered. All three have said if they were given another chance, nothing like this would ever happen again and throw themselves on your mercy."

The case was adjourned for a pre-sentence report to be obtained and bail was rejected, with the defendants wiping away tears as they were led to custody.