THE mastermind behind the theft of more than 1,000 catalytic converters at the Cowley Mini Plant was brought back to court after he made up a letter used in mitigation.

Lee Loveridge, of Plover Drive in Greater Leys, was handed a sentence of 10 months suspended for 18 months at Oxford Crown Court on Thursday.

But yesterday, the father-of-six was jailed for 14 months after it was found a character reference letter thought to be from his own employer was in fact written by him.

Loveridge and Luke Trotman both pleaded guilty to stealing £67,000 worth of catalytic converters from October 2014 to February 2015.

Loveridge's defence handed Recorder Harold Persaud a letter on Thursday which stated the 37-year-old's employer would be willing to keep him on despite his conviction.

On Thursday Mr Persaud said the letter "impressed" and "persuaded" him to hand Loveridge a suspended sentence.

But yesterday the Recorder said he had been "misled during course of mitigation" by the letter.

Defending, Ronan McCann said Loveridge actually wrote the letter himself in a "desperate hope" to try to escape a custodial sentence.

Mr McCann added: "It seems the decision was created in that mess and in that tension. Mr Loveridge sat at home with his computer, unable to sleep, and wrote it."

He read out another letter written by Loveridge, which said: "I'm writing to this court to say sorry. Sorry for lying about the work letter. I was not thinking in the right mind, I had not slept.

"I have got myself to blame."

Re-sentencing Loveridge, Mr Persaud said: "Before I sentenced you, I was given a bundle of documents, a letter from your employer indicating you had told them of your difficulties and likelihood of a term imprisonment.

"Considerable reliance on that letter was evidence of a maturing attitude. It now transpires the reported author of that letter knows nothing about it or indeed its contents.

"You have admitted that you have wrote that letter. The letter was in my mind in considering a suspended sentence."

Both Loveridge and Trotman were told they abused a position of trust by accessing the plant outside of their contracted hours while working for Mitie to steal the emissions control devices.

Prosecuting Cathy Olliver said Loveridge disposed of the items at a waste yard in Chesham, Buckinghamshire and Trotman, 30, of Victor Street in Jericho, had assisted in lifting the "very heavy" parts.

On Thursday Ms Olliver said: "On a number of occasions they found they [BMW] had ran out of catalytic converters. Stock levels fell to such a level to cause great concern."

Both Loveridge, who had 16 previous convictions, and Trotman, who had one for an offence of robbery, were identified by CCTV.

Mr Persaud said he "did not believe" the thefts - spanning from October 2014 to February 2015 - could have occurred "just because they saw the catalytic converters stored in the plant".

Defending Loveridge on Thursday Mr McCann told the court he was "the bread winner for his family".

Defending Trotman, Gareth James, said: "He realises he has let himself down badly by becoming involved with this."

Steven Wrelton, spokesman for Mini Plant Oxford said: "We have reviewed our procedures on site as a result of these offences."