A CROOK who toured County Durham villages on a motorbike looking for vehicles to steal has been spared jail.
Stephen Linn, 21, dropped bolt cutters from inside his shirt while talking to his first victim, Durham Crown Court heard.
And in one attempted theft, he tried to steal a van by turning on the ignition from a key still tied to the driver’s belt.
Linn was only spared jail because of his previous good character, with his eight-month prison term suspended.
“A delivery driver was waiting to drop off supplies at the Nisa store in Salter’s Lane, Wingate,” said Ian West prosecuting.
“It was 6am and the store was not yet open.
“Linn, who arrived on a motorbike with another man, spoke to the driver to ask if there was another shop that was open.
“A short time later the driver was in the shop, making the delivery, when he saw Linn in the driver’s seat of his Transit van.”
The court heard Linn grabbed the ignition key from a key chain on the driver’s belt and started the engine.
“At this point the driver was attached to the vehicle by the key and chain,” added Mr West.
“Fortunately, he was able to reach in and turn off the ignition.
“Linn, and the other man who has never been identified, left the scene on a motorbike.”
The court was told in the next hour Linn broke into Land Rovers in Wingate and Trimdon Village, and a Vauxhall Astra in Wheatley Hill.
He was arrested the next day, and later picked out of an identity parade by one of his victims.
Linnn, of Dene Terrace, Horden, admitted attempted robbery, and three charges of attempted theft, all on November 5, last year.
Jane Waugh, defending, said in mitigation: “Mr Linn had been to the dentist, and later took painkillers given to him by someone else.
“He didn’t really know what he was doing that day, although he didn’t set out to do a robbery.
“As a man of previous good character it may be the court feels he deserves a chance.”
Judge Christopher Prince sentenced Linn to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, 150 hours of community work, and a curfew lasting three months.
The judge told him: “I am deeply cynical about the explanation you advance for this offending.
“It may be you were recruited by someone more criminally sophisticated than yourself to steal vehicles.
“It is only your previous good character which keeps you out of prison.”