A Lympstone-trained Royal Marine who stole almost £20,000 of kit while in charge of a store room has been given a suspended jail sentence.

Thomas Clarke took headsets, helmets and other equipment from the base at Chivenor, North Devon and passed it on to two men who sold it on eBay.

Some of the kit was on an official list of items which could be of use to terrorists but there were no weapons and much of it was recovered when Ministry of Defence police raided the homes of the eBay traders.

One of them lived in Northern Ireland and coerced Clarke into stealing more items for him by sending threatening messages which included a photograph of his family home.

He was allowed to keep his job with the Royal Marines but resigned last year out of shame and embarrassment and is now working at an aerospace factory.

He started stealing because he was heavily in debt with 14 credit cards, five of which were close to their credit limit, Exeter Crown Court was told.

Clarke, aged 36, formerly of Chivenor but now living away from Devon, admitted theft and was jailed for six months, suspended for two years and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid community work by Judge Anna Richardson.

She set a timetable under the Proceeds of Crime Act which may result in the seizure of any assets which he gained as a result of his thefts.

She told him: “This was a breach of a high degree of trust and responsibility and there pas a potential of harm, given the nature of the items which were stolen and put into circulation.

“You are of positive good character and I have seen the references. Those with whom you worked speak exceptionally highly of you. Your employer continued to place trust in you, which is an indication of how highly they viewed you.”

Mr Daniel Pawson-Pounds, prosecuting, said kit was stolen from the store at the Royal Marines Logistics base at Chivenor from October 2020 until Clarke was arrested in September 2022.

A total of 66 items were stolen with a value of £19,000 but Clarke received just over £10,000 from the sales. The kit included clothing, helmets and specialist headsets and the investigation started when the MoD noticed items which were of potential use by terrorists for sale on eBay.

A financial investigation showed that Clarke was motivated to pay off credit card debts and owed around £2,000.

Miss Emily Pitts, defending, said Clarke was coerced into stealing more kit by an eBay trader from Northern Ireland who threatened him and his family.

She said he was allowed to remain in the Royal Marines but resigned ‘out of his own sense of embarrassment and shame. He knows how serious a breach of the public’s trust this was.”