A GARDENER betrayed his friend by stealing thousands of pounds for a cocaine bender.

David Paterson had been given a chance to rebuild his life by Stefan Reszczynski in Hove.

But after doing some work around in the garden, he was shown the safe in Mr Reszczynski’s bedroom.

Opportunist Paterson then waited until his friend of 20 years was out before raiding the safe and pocketed more than £6,000.

Later his wife found out that he had packed a bag and his passport, and left a note saying “I’ve done something terrible”.

Paterson admitted burglary, and “wept uncontrollably” in the dock at Lewes Crown Court.

He was given a two-year suspended sentence, and was ordered to complete rehabilitation sessions.

Beverley Cherrill, prosecuting, said Paterson, 37, had breached the trust of the friendship in May this year.

Paterson admitted the charge at Brighton Magistrates’ Court in May.

It was revealed the father-of-two had lost his job and fallen on hard times.

Mr Reszczynski invited Paterson, of London Road, Patcham, in to work as a gardener at his home in Shirley Drive.

After asking for help to retrieve the contents of the safe, he realised a key was missing, and got a call from Paterson’s wife.

Paterson was a cocaine user, and had taken the money and gone on a bender in London, spending the cash on drugs, alcohol, and hotels.

Andrew Stephens, defending, said Paterson has been clear of drugs for more than 100 days and is determined to turn his life around for the benefit of his family and children.

He has been in rehabilitation.

The judge said: “This was a particularly mean offence. The defendant is weeping controllably in the dock, but he has put himself in this position because of what he has done.

“It should be sorrow for his children and those he betrayed.

“He is reaping the consequences of his own vile actions.”

Mr Stephens said Paterson intends to pay back the money he stole, and said Paterson has made real progress in kicking his addiction.

The judge ordered Paterson to stand in the dock, then told him: “Your behaviour was absolutely despicable. The money disappeared in a cloud of excess.

“How you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning I have no idea.

“You put your own desire above your children, friends, and family. You call yourself a man?

“I have heard a victim statement who has demonstrated more compassion and humanity than you deserve.

“You showed a complete disregard for anyone but yourself. But at last you have started to take advantage of the help on offer to you.

“The public would be better served by allowing you to maintain that.”