A SHOPLIFTER who tore out a security guard’s thumbnail during a struggle has been jailed for two years.

Nigel Mattox attempted to steal two Craghopper coats from Debenham’s in Bolton’s Market Place Shopping Centre on September 6 last year. He was watched by staff as he took the coats, worth £200, from the store without paying.

But the heroin addict, of Devonshire Road, Atherton, was challenged by the store’s loss prevention officer Natalie Tyler.

He protested he had nothing on him and a struggle broke out which resulted in Ms Tyler sustaining a bruised arm and having her thumbnail ‘torn out’. During the confrontation Mattox also warned her that he had a needle and threatened to stab her. Prosecutor Philip Dobson told the court that although Ms Tyler did not see a needle she was affected by the threat – but managed to get Mattox back into the store. He then ran off and was stopped by another member of staff. Police then arrived and arrested him.

Mattox pleaded guilty to not co-operating with a drugs test but not guilty to burglary and assault, but did not attend a trial arranged for November. He also failed to attend a first hearing after burgling TK Maxx on September 29, 2016, but was arrested on both matters on September 12 this year.

The 43-year-old was already under a 24-month suspended sentence imposed by Mold Crown Court after he was found guilty of burgling a house in north Wales. The court heard how Mattox was a prolific criminal, had been sentenced 47 times for 185 offences, of which 125 are theft or dishonesty offences.

Mr Neil Ronan, defending, pleaded for leniency, telling the court his client’s problems stemmed from his dependence on heroin. He said: “It is noted by the probation service that this is a man who is riven by addiction, starting at a very early age.

“As his calendar of addiction shows the defendant is the type of offender who both frustrates the criminal justice system by his recidivism and requires assistance which has not yet taken hold or gained traction.

“One glimmer of comfort is that those who have spoken to him from probation say they now feel he is ready to be engaged with the process of removing himself from this addiction spiral he is in.”

But Recorder Harry Naryan said: “I have a public duty to perform. He had a suspended sentence and within six months committed offences. I’m afraid these breaches do attract a custodial sentence by themselves because of previous convictions.”