A FORMER shopping centre boss has spoken out after allegations that he stole from his employers were dropped.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has discontinued its case against Mike Weston, 64, the former manager of Castle Dene Shopping Centre, in Peterlee.
He said: “My life’s in ruins and my reputation’s been blackened.”
Mr Weston, from Deaf Hill Terrace, in Trimdon Station, had been charged with five counts of theft totalling £2,000 from the complex over a period of a year.
But he said that this related to the wages he received for running the bank holiday markets on an “almost cash-in-hand” basis, though he took £200 each time and said the rest went towards his tax and insurance payments.
Mr Weston said this had been the arrangement since he started his employment at the centre in 2002 and no issues had been raised previously with the centre’s three former owners.
He is now pursuing an unfair dismissal claim against Uniqwin, managing agents of Salford Estates, and Salford’s holding company, Praxis Holdings, who have run the centre since July last year.
Mr Weston, who said he had lost one-and-a-half stone and his partner had been ill due to stress over the proceedings, said: “Ever since I have been in Peterlee and run the bank holiday market I have always been paid a certain way.
“The centre owners were saying it’s illegal but it had been done this way for 10 years.”
He claimed that his employers called in the police without giving him a proper chance to explain and he was then suspended.
He was arrested and put into a police van and questioned by officers.
Mr Weston said: “I have worked since I was 15 years old and have never had a problem.
“I have run pubs and clubs and other shopping centres and never taken a penny or been in trouble with anybody.”
But he said since being suspended in October last year he has been unable to find work, despite having an unblemished record and being just four months away from retirement.
The case was formally discontinued at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court yesterday after prosecutor Debra Jones said there was “not enough evidence to support a realistic prospect of conviction”.
A Salford Estates spokeswoman said: “Any claim by Mr Weston of unfair dismissal will be robustly challenged.”