A SACKED salesman took his revenge on his former bosses by ordering nearly £300,000 worth of cars on their account in a drunken rage, a court was told.

Paul Donkin, who was asked to leave Durham Hire and Sales in Langley Moor, near Durham, used the company’s login details to buy 24 cars at random from an online auction trader.

Sunderland Magistrates’ Court was told that had the firm been forced to pay it could have folded with potential loss of up to 20 jobs,

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John McGlone, prosecuting, said the 41-year-old was given the passwords when he worked for the firm between June and August last year.

He accessed the British Car Auctions (BCA) from his home in Mount Pleasant, near Washington, and purchased 21 vehicles in less than 15 minutes, on August 31.

The following day he logged in again and purchased a further three vehicles. The combined total value was £294,850.

BCA thought the transaction unusual and contacted Durham Hire and Sales to be told it was not genuine. It accepted this and cancelled the sale.

Mr McGlone said: “It was a kind gesture as the transactions had been completed at that point and Durham Hire and Sales could have been forced to pay for all 24 vehicles.”

This, he added, could have resulted in the business folding.

When arrested, Donkin told police he was owed wages and claimed he had tried unsuccessfully to make contact with the company directors to resolve the matter.

Mr McGlone said: “He said he was drinking at time and it was moment of madness – that he wanted to get back at the company and cause them a bit of trouble.”

Michael Robinson, defending, said: “The idea that, but for the kind act of British Car Auctions, his former employer would have been bound to pay is not accepted. That is not how contract law works.”

He added: “He knew that the auction house would have to confirm the purchases with his former employer and that it wouldn’t proceed. . . the actual loss was zero."

Donkin was under emotional stress at the time of the offence and had shown remorse, he said.

Donkin, now of East Bridge Street, Mount Pleasant, pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to two charges of committing fraud by false representation and two of misusing a computer to gain access to unauthorised data.

The case was adjourned to July 14, when sentence will be passed at Newcastle Crown Court.