A homeless chef was locked up today after making Gatwick airport his home for THREE years.

"Cheeky" Anthony Delaney ate, showered and slept at the busy airport, brushing off security staff who stopped him more then 30 times.

He told his lawyers he was happier staying there because he was "clean, dry and warm".

In fact he rarely left the busy south terminal, popping out only occasionally to collect his Jobseeker's Allowance, the court was told.

In scenes reminiscent of the Steven Spielberg movie The Terminal, Delaney passed his days watching holidaymakers and airline staff going about their business.

A court was told he did not suffer mental health problems, was neither a drug nor alcohol addict, and did not cause "a stink".

But Judge Richard Hayward remanded him in custody for sentence believing his urge to return to Gatwick would be too strong should he be released.

He said: "It is a bit cheeky to go straight back to Gatwick. There are other places you can have a shower. This is just going on and on. It is all very strange."

Lewes Crown Court was told that Delaney had repeatedly defied an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo).

Even when he was jailed for breaching his Asbo, he returned to the airport as soon as he was released.

Delaney yesterday admitted breaching his order for the third time.

The court heard Delaney was sentenced to 95 days in prison for the last breach when he appeared at the same court on January 10.

Because he had spent time behind bars on remand waiting for his court appearance, he was released immediately.

Delaney then made his way back to the airport where he was arrested in the south terminal later the same day.

Sarah Lindop, prosecuting, told the court the Asbo was imposed in 2006 and remains in force until 2011.

The order prohibits him from entering the airport or its railway station.

Delaney first started living at the airport in 2004 and since February that year he has been stopped by security staff more than 30 times.

Under airport authority bylaws Delaney was officially banned in March 2005, but he continued to return.

The Asbo was imposed the following year.

Peter Knight, defending, said Delaney has been staying at the airport because he wanted to stay clean, dry and warm.

He said Delaney was only looking for shelter and did not cause trouble. He said: "It is not a situation where he goes to the airport and causes a stink.

"He is not there to cause problems at all. He is just simply there and is asked to leave on numerous occasions.

"The Asbo was put in place because he was using the airport as a residence."

Mr Knight said Delaney's problems started in 2004 when he lost his job in Buckinghamshire as a chef along with his accommodation.

He headed back to Sussex where he had previously lived in order to find work, but when he was unable to find a job he started using the airport as a place to stay.

In November last year he bought a tent and a sleeping bag but it was burnt down and Delaney has not been able to buy replacements.

He said: "It is an offence borne out of desperation. He does not want to continue living like this."

Judge Hayward told Delaney he needed help to break the cycle of returning to the airport.

The judge adjourned sentence for pre-sentence reports in order for the probation service to try to offer help. But he told Delaney he was not releasing him on bail.

He said: "If I give you bail you have nowhere to go and the temptation to end up back at Gatwick would be overwhelming."

Delaney was remanded in custody until March 10.

The Argus last week revealed a bizarre situation across Sussex in which local authorities, following Government guidelines, are claiming tiny numbers of people actually live on the county's streets. The department for Communities and Local Government defines a rough sleeper as someone "sleeping or bedded down in the open air, such as on the streets or in parks, doorways or bus shelters".

Anybody not lying down asleep in a sleeping bag is not counted. Under that rationale Crawley Borough Council said there are fewer than 10 rough sleepers in the district.

Paul Young, founder of Brighton-based homeless charity Off the Fence, said: "It's a sad situation when someone feels sleeping in an airport is the only option.

"However it is understandable when the weather is so cold on the streets.

"I'm surprised he got away with it for so long, he almost has squatters rights after that length of time."

A spokeswoman for Gatwick airport declined to comment.

In the film The Terminal, Tom Hanks plays an Eastern European tourist who becomes a resident of New York airport when a war breaks out and erases his country from the map, voiding his passport.