A JURY has retired to consider whether two Warburtons employees are guilty of stealing bread trays worth more than £500,000 from the Bolton bakery in a recycling scam.

Judge Simon Newell alowed the jury to start its deliberations at 12.05pm today.

Robert Cooper, aged 61, of Winchester Way, Breightmet, and Paul Rogers, aged 34, of Parkway, Rochdale, both deny conspiracy to steal.

The pair are accused of taking about 90,000 plastic bread baskets - valued by Warburtons at £562,000 - to be recycled at Darwen firm PM Plastics and pocketing the proceeds themselves.

The offences allegedly took place in 70 trips on 39 different days between October 2011 and March 2012.

HGV driver Rogers delivered the baskets on all but one occasion while the signature on the duty report was nearly always Cooper's, Preston Crown Court heard.

Judge Newell completed his summary of the case today.

The jury were told how 57 "full-load" visits were made by Rogers, according to vehicle tracking system Microlise.

He also made two 15-minute visits, consistent with a "half-load" delivery, while 10 shorter visits were made, which the Crown argue was to collect cash.

The alleged racket was uncovered on March 19 when recovery investigator Craig Hodges, from basket supplier Basco Bakers, visited PM Plastics and found the baskets before informing police.

Judge Newell recounted how Bolton team manager Cooper, from Warburtons, told the court he was unaware that deliveries were being made to the Darwen firm.

A colleague of his told the court that this was not possible given Cooper's close supervision of where his fleet of drivers were at any given time.

Rogers said in evidence that he never questioned why perfectly good baskets were being taken to be recycled, because his army days had taught him to unquestioningly obey orders.

He added that it would have been impossible for him, as a driver, to order a batch of baskets to be loaded for a delivery.

Rogers, a father-of-four receiving an annual salary of about £24,000, had insisted that he could manage financially without supplementing his income.

Paul Matthews, aged 46, of Jubilee Close, Darwen, the owner of PM Plastics, has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal.

The jury has been told that this plea does not prove that Cooper or Rogers were involved.

The Crown argue that the defendants hatched the scheme with Matthews shortly after Warburtons started recycling baskets at the Darwen plant in November 2010.

The jury has until about 4.30pm today to return a verdict or they will be asked to resume deliberations tomorrow.