A Tesco manager was sacked for tackling an “armed and threatening” shoplifter after his employers accused him of breaching company policy, a tribunal has heard.
Abdoul El Gorrou made a "split-second" descision to single-handedly restrain a suspected thief in his office when he reacted aggressively to questions over his behaviour inside a London-based branch.
The 60-year-old was spat at and threatened with what he believed was a screwdriver before he reacted by grabbing his hood and manhandling him for around 10 seconds, while staff and customers remained in the store Police later arrived at the scene.
Mr El Gorrou was not subject to any complaints but was later reported to company bosses who dismissed him in January last year for breaching Tesco rules on how to deal with shoplifters.
The case emerged on Tuesday at an employment tribunal where Mr El Gorrou won a claim for unfair dismissal and was awarded more than £42,000 in compensation from Tesco.
The panel heard how Mr El Gorrou, who had worked for Tesco for more than 20 years, initially invited the suspected shoplifter into his office, in line with company policy, to say he was banned from the shop.
In response, the man spat at Mr El Gorrou and threatened him with what the manager believed was a screwdriver, but later turned out to be a key.
Watch: What is the Job Support Scheme and how has it changed?
CCTV footage showed the 60-year-old grabbed the shoplifter by his hood and restrained him for around 10 seconds.
Despite the London-based branch being identified as a "dangerous" and "high-risk" hotspot for attracting violent shoplifters, no security guards were employed at the outlet at the time of the incident, the tribunal was told.
While the thief himself made no complaint, three months later an email and video extract were submitted to Tesco's whistleblowing online by someone said to have a grievance against Mr El Gorrou.
Employment Judge Stephen Knight said: "The whistle-blower held some sort of vendetta against Mr El Gorrou, and was using the CCTV footage to encourage Tesco to take disciplinary action against him.”
After receiving the complaint, Tesco launched disciplinary action against Mr El Gorrou and fired him for gross misconduct last January for having physical contact with a customer.
Judge Knight criticised Tesco for not being more suspicious of the whistleblower's claims and evidence.
"The CCTV is completely decontextualized. It does not show what happened immediately before (he) took a step towards the shoplifter,” he told the tribunal.
"Any reasonable employer would also conclude that this was suspicious, and that the footage immediately before the start could be exculpatory, and could have been edited out by the whistle-blower to make(the manager) look worse,” he added.
The judge also dismissed the supermarket's claim that Mr El Gorrou had breached its policies on how to tackle shoplifters.
He added: "There were no reasonable grounds on which Tesco could have concluded that he acted otherwise than in response to disgusting and violent actions by the armed and threatening shoplifter.
"There were no reasonable grounds to conclude that in the CCTV footage (he) acted otherwise than in reasonable self defence and defence of others...having made a split-second decision about what defence was required, in an intensely scary and fast-paced situation, and without a security guard having been provided for his or his colleagues' protection."
Mr El Gorrou was awarded a total of £42,141.56 in compensation. The Telegraph understands the ruling is expected to be appealed
Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?