THE FORMER manager of a Wetherspoons pub who stole £8,500 in takings before jetting off to Thailand has been given a suspended prison sentence.

A court heard how Phillip Gary Barlow, known as Phil to his friends, had made up a story about his daughter being in a car crash but in reality he blew around £6,500 of that money in Southeast Asia before returning England.

Barlow, 52, of Newchurch Close, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to theft of cash from the Commercial Hotel. Yesterday at Burnley Crown Court Judge Beverley Lunt sentenced Barlow to 16 months imprisonment but suspended it for 12 months. He must also complete 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

The court heard Barlow was arrested on his return to the UK at Manchester Airport around a month after the theft, where he was in possession of £2,000 cash. That money has since been confiscated and returned to Wetherspoons.

Prosecuting at Blackburn Magistrates Court Tracy Yates said Barlow had stolen the takings of £4,320 from October 27 and £4,180 from the following day.

The thefts came to light when the security company came to collect the takings and Barlow hadn’t turned in for work on October 30.

Mrs Yates said: “An audit and CCTV showed he was responsible.”

Ben Leach, defending, said Barlow had worked for the company as a manager for a number of years. Two years ago he was involved in a robbery as he was cashing up.

Mr Leach said: “He believed he was dealing with that nasty incident quite well but a short time before this matter there was an incident when he was threatened by a man with a broken bottle.

“That had brought fears back to the forefront of his mind and he has reacted in a strange way.”

Mr Leach said Barlow made up a story to his partner of eight years, Karen Kinley, and then flew to Thailand.

Ms Kinley, 51, who spoke exclusively to the Lancashire Telegraph shortly after the theft, pleaded for Barlow to come home.

During the time he was missing, she said she tried everything she could to get in contact with him including posting in a variety of social media groups and contacting Bangkok Police.

Miss Kinley said her partner had been working at The Commercial Hotel for around three months after transferring from another Wetherspoons pub, The Postal Order in Blackburn, where he had been working for almost 18 months.

Speaking after the case,

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “ We don’t comment on court cases involving former staff.”