Ex-shoplifter says he stole £3m worth of goods to feed heroin addiction - and targeted Co-op

Cullan Mais was sent to prison 10 times for shoplifting - but has turned his life around and now helps drug addicts

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An ex-shoplifter who claims he pinched £3m worth of items says it's too easy for thieves to get away with it and suggests shops display empty boxes to combat crime.

Cullan Mais, 32, says he used to steal £2,000 of items a day - up to £14,000 a week - shoplifting at the peak of his criminality and in total stole items with a retail value of £3m. He says shoplifting was "harder to kick" than his drug habit.

He has since turned his life around but says shops make it too easy for shoplifters and advises them to put in place stricter measures to deter people.

Cullan suggests shop keepers should use empty boxes when displaying high value goods, avoid keeping spirits on the shop floor and place tills close to exits.

He also recommends they be aware of blind spots and have security at all times - if they can.

Cullan Mais, 32, says he used to steal £2,000 of items a day - up to £14,000 a week - shoplifting at the peak of his criminality and in total stole items with a retail value of £3million Picture: SWNSCullan Mais, 32, says he used to steal £2,000 of items a day - up to £14,000 a week - shoplifting at the peak of his criminality and in total stole items with a retail value of £3million Picture: SWNS
Cullan Mais, 32, says he used to steal £2,000 of items a day - up to £14,000 a week - shoplifting at the peak of his criminality and in total stole items with a retail value of £3million Picture: SWNS

He was nicked in August 2020 for shoplifting and received a suspended sentence which spurred him on to get clean and on the straight and narrow.

In total, he went to prison 10 times, all for shoplifting offences, and served a total of three years.

Cullan, a podcaster who works for a charity that helps people with drug addictions, from Cardiff, Wales, said: “First of all you are never going to stop shoplifting completely but shops should always have tills by their doors.

“They should be much more aware of their blind spots and stop putting valuables on the shop floors. Some shops have started using empty boxes for higher value goods - there should be more of this.

“If ever a shop had security, I wouldn't steal from there. I’d simply go to one that didn’t have it - so more shops should have security. The main one I would say though is stop putting alcohol on shop floors - if there’s alcohol there it will be nicked.”

Cullan began taking heroin when he was 18. By 22, he was struggling to fund his addiction, until in 2010 he managed to get his hands on a car.

Cullan said: “The moment I got wheels is the moment I discovered shoplifting. This was next level - it made it so easy. You could just blag the stuff and make a getaway.

“I started off with local shops. At the start I used to ask people in my neighbourhood what they wanted and would go into the town centre and steal clothes.

“Then I started going to supermarkets and stealing food. You’d be amazed at how many people were after cheap meat and cheese.

Co-op always had alcohol right on the shop floor, so that that quickly became my bread and butter."

Cullan said it got to the point where he was making £2,000 a day “with ease” - largely from alcohol.

“The most I ever managed to steal in one go without a bag was 19 bottles of spirits, with no bag.

“It was about six bottles of expensive gin, four bottles of whiskey, and a couple of bottles of Cîroc vodka, some champagne, Moet and Bollinger.

“I had a Barbour gilet on with chest pockets, normal pockets, and in the back, it had a wide pocket that you could put stuff in.”

Cullan explained there are two types of shoplifters.

“You get shoplifters who are clever, who are smart about it and ones who we call kamikaze - they swipe it and walk out without really thinking,” he said.

“I would replace the bottle space in the shop so people weren’t suspicious, and I would avoid the big shops for security.

“I didn’t care about getting arrested in six months' time - the only thing I was thinking about was getting drugs for that day.”

Cullan would also have a getaway driver for every trip he made. I would split money down middle with driver, I travelled the country doing it," he said.

“If I went to Manchester and was working my way down to Cardiff, I’d be stealing from a different shop in every town on the way down.

“Then I might get to Birmingham with my car full of stolen goods.

“I would go and find a corner shop and say do you want any alcohol for a fraction of the price - 99 times out of 100 they would say yes. Everyone loves a bargain.

“By the time I was halfway back to Cardiff, I would have at least a grand. Then once I got back, I would go to local buyers.

“I was making thousands per day but when you’re an addict the more money you make, the more drugs you take."

Cullan says everything changed after he was caught by police in August 2020 when he was 28, his 10th conviction for shoplifting.

He was set a date for court in October 2020, but shortly after was rushed to hospital with pneumonia and sepsis after a decade of drug abuse caught up with him.

While in hospital, Cullan almost died, with doctors just managing to stabilise his condition.

He remained hospitalised for a month before being discharged and put on Buvidal - a new drug that helps people get off heroin which he says is a “game changer.”

With his court date two months away, Cullan vowed to stay clean for good.

When his sentencing date arrived at Cardiff Magistrates court, Cullan was able to tell the court that he was clean and had made big changes in his life after his near-death experience with the prosecution saying they they had seen a genuine change in him.

"They agreed to give me a second chance, and didn't give me a prison sentence," Cullan said.

“After that I slowly managed to recover, both from my heroin and shoplifting addiction. In some ways the shoplifting was harder to kick than heroin.

“Every day I still get people calling me asking me if I’ve got stuff in, it's mad."

Cullan says he could make just as much money as a drug dealer but with a lower risk of lengthy prison sentences.

"I also was not taking advantage of people," he said. "The way I saw it, I was stealing from big corporations with millions of pounds in the bank."

Cullan now works for Kaleidoscope - a charity which helps people suffering with drug addictions - and has a podcast where he talks about his former struggles called 'the Central Club'.

“Now I just want to focus on my charity work and make a real difference,” he said.

Cullan says the six ways for shops to make it harder for shoplifters are -

  • Always have tills close to the exits for added security
  • Be aware of blind spots that are tucked away and make sure you keep an eye on them at all times
  • Keep the ultra-valuable stuff off the shop floor
  • Use empty boxes for higher valuable goods if they need to be displayed
  • Have security on the shop floor at all times
  • Don't keep any spirits on shop floors
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