THE son of a Merseyside nursing home owner funnelled more than £100,000 into an employee's bank account so they could fund their cocaine addiction.

A court heard that Paul Geary, the owner's son, had turned to drugs after the mental trauma he suffered by being at the tragic Hillsborough match was reignited in 2012 by the official inquiry into the disaster.

He also lost his father and that combined with his involvement in the independent Hillsborough inquiry led to him needing counselling and possibly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

"He does not advance that to excuse what he has done but it may provide some background as to why a man in his 40s should have found himself using more and more recreational cocaine," said his barrister Jonathan Duffy.

Geary, 46, of Kingsway, Wallasey, pleaded guilty to four offences of theft by employee and one of fraud by abuse of position.

He appeared in the dock alongside care worker Michael Challis, of Malwood Street, Toxteth, who admitted one offence of theft.

Imposing suspended prison sentences on both men the judge, Recorder Barrie Searle, said that they "had been in it together," and described Geary as having "cooked the books."

Zia Chaudhry, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that the offences involved Abbey Lawns Nursing Home in Anfield owned by Geary's mother, Joan Geary.

"He worked for the company as pay roll manager and also dealt with day to day office duties, having worked there since 1989.

"He would receive the wage sheets from the accountant and would then make payments using the company's bank.

"Michael Challis also worked there and his role was a health care assistant and had worked there for approximately ten years the time.

"Between 2014 to the middle of last year there was systematic overpayment of wages to Challis by Paul Geary.

"The relevant work sheets were being altered to show Challis was working much longer than he really had and so greater payments than he was really entitled to were going into his bank account.

"This amounted over a period of time to £104,563," said Mr Chaudhry.

Matters came to the attention of the police when Geary complained to police that 50-year-old Challis was blackmailing him.

He claimed that after his cocaine use got out of control he had found himself in debt to Challis who gave him drugs on tick and so he began falsifying his work records.

Challis said they both had the same drug dealer and it was Geary who paid their drug debt and denied blackmail.

Mr Chaudhry said it was clear neither account was entirely correct.

He added: "The bottom line is that both defendants were responsible for this enterprise in which money was taken from the business."

He pointed out that text messages showed that Geary had gambling problems as well as a drug habit.

The court heard that Mrs Geary, who is still running the business, relies on her son and would be adversely affected if he was jailed.

He has, so far, repaid £5,700 and is continuing to make payments.

Rachel Oakdene, defending, said that Challis, a divorced father-of-one, did voluntary work for KIND involved with disadvantaged children and he had been a care worker for 25 years.

At the time of the offence he had "an acute addiction to cocaine but is now drug free.

"He feels enormous shame and embarrassment and deeply regrets his involvement."

Challis, who now has a new job, looks after his mum, she added.

Mr Duffy said that Geary also felt enormous shame and remorse.

He had made "a catastrophic decision" to behave as he did.

He is now working with autistic adults and helps out at the nursing home but not in the same capacity.

He said that his contact with the independent police investigation into Hillsborough "re-opened wounds for him in respect of which has received considerable counselling."

The underlying reason he did what he did was his burgeoning drug debt and he felt under pressure to pay, said Mr Duffy.

He pointed out that Geary is not a well man, having three stents inserted because of heart trouble and has had serious spinal problems which means he walks with a crutch.

Recorder Searle told the two men, that cocaine, a Class A drug: "was responsible for the destruction of peoples lives.

"I do not say that glibly, it brings misery and destruction to family lives in this city and in the court's experience people becoming involved with that drug are not entirely candid."

He said it was difficult to see any evidence of blackmail and as far as he was concerned Challis was "an equal partner as far as the supply of that drug was concerned."

The judge said that if Geary was sent straight to prison his mum, who relies on him, would become a victim for the second time.

He sentenced him to two years imprisonment suspended for two years and order him to carry out 200 hours unpaid work and ten days rehabilitation activities.

Challis was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 150 hours unpaid work and 20 days rehabilitation activities.