A PETROL station attendant stole £7,000 from the safe at his place of work in a desperate bid to raise enough cash to escape his strict Muslim parents, a court heard.

Abu-Bakr Shaikh took the money he was entrusted to put in the safe at the Morrisons station in Hatfield Road, St Albans, and returned later with a hammer to break a window to make it look like a burglary.

When he was arrested, Shaikh, of Sutton Road, St Albans, told police he was going to use the money to leave home and follow his dream of becoming a mechanic, which his parents disapproved of.

The 21-year-old pleaded guilty to theft by employee and criminal damage to the petrol station window.

Lynette Woodrow, prosecuting at St Albans Magistrates Court yesterday said Shaikh had been working as a part-time assistant at the pumps in Hatfield Road for 18 months before the theft.

As part of his duties he was given the responsibility of putting the takings in the safe each night and locking up.

However, on Wednesday, May 26 this year, after closing up he went to the petrol station office with the cash and stuffed bundles of notes totalling £7,775 into his jacket pocket.

Once the money was hidden in a sofa in his bedroom Shaikh returned in the early hours of the morning with a hammer.

He moved a CCTV camera to face upwards and smashed a hole in the toughened glass of the petrol station window to make it look like there had been a break in.

The guilt soon got the better of Shaikh, who admitted to staff to being the culprit after being shown CCTV.

He told police where the money was and that he was “depressed” due to his family life and financial difficulties.

His family are extremely religious and very strict with the 21-year old forced to observe a 10.30pm curfew, which meant going home straight from work, the court heard.

He was not allowed friends round and had no social life apart from going to work, magistrates were told.

Shaikh said to officers during interview he wanted to pursue a dream of becoming a mechanic, but his parents did not agree with it and would not help him.

Finbarr Cuneen, defending asked the magistrates not to imprison Shaikh for the “one off” offence.

“There was a build up of pressure which led to this act which is completely out of character.”, he said.

The chairman of the bench Ken Gillespie said the offences did cross the custody threshold, but the court would not be sending Shaikh to prison.

He was ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work and will be supervised by probation for a year.

Morrisons were awarded £100 compensation for the damaged window.