A serial fraudster has admitted slashing more than £5,000 worth of Victoria’s Secret underwear with scissors in order to collect thousands of pounds in dodgy refunds.

Patricia Phillips, 52, was caught at Bluewater Shopping Centre in April at the end of a three month spree during which she scammed four different branches of the famous lingerie chain.

Phillips, of Blackmore Road, Stondon Massey in Brentwood, Essex, pinched display items from the Greenhithe outlet as well as stores in Sheffield, New Bond Street and Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford.

She would cut them with scissors before searching out identical items in the shop and damaging them as well.

Staff were then unable to offer her a straight swap when she fraudulently presented the display items for a refund.

Prosecutor Lynda Huppatz told Dartford Magistrates’ Court yesterday that Phillips viewed her actions as a “cry for help”.

Mrs Huppatz said: “She entered the stores to buy her daughter something then sort of went blank and did what she did.

“She is disgusted with herself and her actions and told police she needs to be punished for what she has done.

“She told officers it wasn’t about the money but was some sort of cry for help since her daughter passed away, her marriage broke up and with the stress of her job, charity work and worrying about her other daughter.

“Watching the CCTV of the incidents made her feel sick.”

Phillips damaged £5,025.50 worth of stock in order to claim £1,666 in refunds following her first offence at Victoria’s Secret in New Bond Street on February 14.

On that day she shredded five pairs of designer swim pants and two angel runway gowns worth £698.50.

In one day alone on March 22 she destroyed £1,192 worth of underwear at New Bond Street, claiming £298 of it in refunds.

Phillips was caught on April 16 at Bluewater after slashing two gowns worth £215 each.

The assistant manager became suspicious when Phillips presented one of them at the till claiming an item had previously been put aside for her to exchange it for but none could be found.

After police were notified Phillips collapsed with chest pains and an ambulance had to be called.

Victoria’s Secret’s UK loss prevention officer managed to track down five other similar crimes – two at New Bond Street, one at Sheffield and one at Westfield.

Phillips sobbed as she pleaded guilty to four counts of criminal damage to property and four of fraud by false representation at the different stores.

Magistrate Robert Chapman adjourned sentencing until later this month pending a further pre-sentence report.