A LOSING gambler stole his elderly mother's Motability scheme Land Rover Discovery to try to solve his financial problems, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

But that gamble also failed when police investigations revealed Liam Axworthy had driven the £22,000 vehicle to his apartment in Ibiza.

Axworthy had changed the registration plates on the vehicle to private plates he had owned for four years but Police National Computer checks revealed the vehicle with that registration driving in Kent.

It was also found that the silver-coloured vehicle had boarded a ferry from Dover to Calais on July 18 last year.

When police went to Axworthy's £400,000 apartment they found the Land Rover in his underground garage, said Anne McCracken, prosecuting.

41-year-old Axworthy was brought back to the Wirral and when interviewed he explained that he had £8,000 gambling debts to some Romanians.

In a Facebook message Axworthy said, "Already have two Mercedes over there but this year everyone wants Range Rovers for their size.

"We have a few but thought I'd bring another of my rides to the fleet," said Miss McCracken.

She had told the court that police inquiries had begun on July 30 last year when he claimed his home in Brookside Crescent, Saughall Massie, had been burgled and the keys to his mother's Land Rover had been stolen.

It had been leased from Motability in July 2007 and it was registered to his 83-year-old mother, Joan Axworthy.

Police and the car's insurers were suspicious and investigations began.

Axworthy, a father-of-three, who pleaded guilty to theft and attempting to pervert the course of justice, was jailed for 12 months.

"This was a blatant but sophisticated scheme to defraud, in particular you re-plated the vehicle and made a false report of a burglary," said Judge David Boulton.

Ian Whitehurst, defending, said that Axworthy has no similar convictions and has been out of trouble for a significant period of time.

"He got himself into debt gambling with others in Ibiza. He got carried away with himself, as sometimes happens with men of a certain age, and also got carried away with the lifestyle he thought he could live.

"He put himself and his family at risk with his misconceived actions. Since the commission of these offences he has been brought to his senses," said Mr Whitehurst.

He has been trying to sort his financial problems out and has sought debt counselling.

His wife works as a PA to a surgeon at Chester Hospital and she had to give in her notice as she will have to take over caring for their children.

Mr Whitehurst said he is struggling to pay his mortgage repayments on the apartment in Ibiza and the market there is as difficult as here.

"He worked hard to establish his life-style and because of his own stupidity through gambling everything is at risk," he added.