A BIRCHWOOD car thief, who teamed up with two men to steal and sell vehicles to unsuspecting buyers, is now behind bars.

Anthony Hather, of Trefoil Close, Birchwood, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal motor vehicles, was sentenced to three years in prison after masterminding the car theft scam.

The 24-year-old, who stole three cars to the value of £57,000 from Avis earlier this year, left one buyer out of pocket by £10,000 and another by £4,450.

His accomplices Alan Astley, of Fordlea Road, Liverpool, and Jamie Oldroyd, of Hamnett Court, Birchwood, were both sentenced to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of handling stolen goods.

The court heard how Hather had convinced three friends to rent a £12,000 Ford Fiesta and a £27,000 Mercedes-Benz C Class and £18,000 A Class from the car rental company at Manchester Airport.

Hather, who has a string of previous convictions, would then refuse to give back the cars, later passing on the vehicles to Oldroyd who 'acted as a go between'.

The vehicles were then handed to Astley to sell on eBay as damaged vehicles.

Two of the three vehicles were sold but all three cars have been recovered.

During the hearing at Warrington Crown Court on Friday, it was revealed that cocaine had played part in Hather's offending spree but he is now drug free.

Defending, Carmel Wilde said he now wishes to 'pursue a life without crime'.

"He has woken up a little bit and now realises there is some life at the end of the tunnel and a life without crime. He has the support of his family."

Sentencing, Judge Nicholas Woodward said: "The ironic thing is that you are all quite capable of earning a decent wage in life.

"You have the necessary enterprising skills to do that but you tried to take a dishonest shortcut to that."