A FORMER shopping centre boss says his life has been “ruined” by allegations he stole from work.
Mike Preston today spoke out after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) discontinued its case him.
He had been charged with five counts of theft totalling £2,000, from Peterlee’s Castle Dene Shopping Centre over a year.
“My life’s in ruins and my reputation’s been blackened,” said the 64-year-old.
Mr Weston said the money in question related to wages he received for running the bank holiday markets on an “almost cash-in-hand” basis, although he took £200 each time and said the rest went towards his tax and insurance payments.
He said this had been the arrangement since he started at the East Durham centre in 2002 and no issues had been raised previously with its three former owners.
He is now pursuing an unfair dismissal claim against Uniqwin, managing agents of Salford Estates, and Salford’s holding company, Praxis Holdings, which have run the centre since July last year.
Mr Weston said he had lost a stone-and-a-half and his partner had been ill due to stress over the court proceedings.
He added: “Ever since I have been in Peterlee and run the bank holiday market, I have always been paid a certain way.
“The centre owners were saying it’s illegal, but it had been done this way for 10 years.”
He claimed that his employers called in the police without giving him a proper chance to explain and he was then suspended.
He was arrested, put into a police van and questioned by officers.
Mr Weston, from Deaf Hill Terrace, Trimdon Station, said: “I have worked since I was 15 and have never had a problem.
“I have run pubs and clubs and other shopping centres and never taken a penny.”
But he said since being suspended in October, he has been unable to find work, despite having an unblemished record and being just four months away from retirement.
The case was formally discontinued at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court yesterday after prosecutor Debra Jones said there was “not enough evidence to support a realistic prospect of conviction”.
A Salford Estates spokeswoman said: “Any claim by Mr Weston of unfair dismissal will be robustly challenged.”