A GREEDY payroll manager pilfered thousands of pounds from his employer to pay for holidays and designer watches.

Christopher Lancaster was in charge of payments at Gardners Books, Eastbourne where had had worked for more than 20 years.

But when his wife left the company to become a self-employed baker, their household income plummeted.

So Lancaster used a former employee’s details to pay himself each month to maintain his lifestyle.

Over four and a half years he stole more than £50,000.

Lewes Crown Court heard the 48-year-old paid for a trip to Dubai, designer clothes, a £2,000 designer watch, an even a car.

He told probation officers he “felt sick” each time the money came into his account.

But Judge Christine Laing QC said he was “not sick enough to put a stop to it”, and jailed Lancaster for one year and eight months.

Beverley Cherrill, prosecuting, said Lancaster stole the money between October 2013 and May last year, when he was found out.

He immediately apologised to the book wholesale firm, where he was the payroll manager for 15 years.

But police then had to talk Lancaster back from the brink at Beachy Head before he could be brought to court and admit his crime.

Justin Rivett, defending, said Lancaster deeply regretted his actions, but claimed his client was not living an “extravagant” lifestyle.

He said the most expensive item was the £2,000 watch, while the Dubai holiday had been “cheap” because Lancaster had stayed with his brother, not in a luxury hotel.

Mr Rivett asked the judge to suspend Lancaster’s sentence, as he has no previous criminal convictions, and said there was no obvious explanation for the theft.

Judge Laing QC said: “I’m not persuaded to suspend the sentence. The reality is that sheer greed was the driver for this offence, nothing else.

“You have no addictions, no need, and no financial difficulties. It was sheer greed to continue a lifestyle you clearly aspired to, but which finances didn’t allow.

“This was not a one-off moment of madness. You moved a substantial amount on a monthly basis.You told probation you felt sick at the end of each month, but clearly not sick enough to put a stop to it.”

Lancaster, of Seaford Road, Eastbourne, was jailed, and now faces court proceedings to claim back the money he stole.