Three shoplifters yesterday walked free despite the death of a Sainsbury’s staff member who tried to stop them stealing biscuits.

Javed Agha, 52, who worked at one of the grocer’s Manchester stores, suffered a heart attack after attempting to detain the thieves, one of whom hit a store detective and hurled racial abuse, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Eytan Yates, 24, Andrew Sinnott, 20 and Jacob Williams, 19 were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after the incident in August 2007, but the charge did not proceed.

Yates, of Radcliffe, pleaded guilt to affray. Sinnott, of Fallowfield, pleaded guilty to threatening behaviour. Williams, of Little Hulton, pleaded guilty to theft, possession of amphetamine and threatening behaviour.

The three were given 12-month community orders. Passing sentence Mr Justice Timothy Holroyde said: “No one in this court should underestimate the seriousness of violence towards the staff of such a business doing no more than their jobs.”