A Chinese lingerie thief was caught after the weight of pilfered undergarments caused a ceiling to collapse.

The 2,000 sets of lingerie had been stolen from women in Yulin city, Guangxi province, over the course of a year, reports Gxnews.com.cn.

The thief hid the underwear above ceiling tiles in a number of stairwells throughout the apartment building in which he lived. His pilfered panties and bras were exposed when a tile gave way and a huge cache fell out.

Police subsequently lined the underwear up neatly outside the apartment building, to show how much the man had stolen. Police said he also accessed apartments in other buildings.

The thief, named only as Tan, had made his haul by creeping into apartments and stealing his neighbours' underwear while they were at work, using a master key in his possession.

He claims he has had a mental illness, and does not know when his obsession with stealing women's underwear began, said police.

Tan was subsequently arrested.