A THIEF recruited by travellers to take a tractor from a farm jumped from the machine and let it plough through a fence when he was rumbled by police.
Daniel Hutchinson was approached by two members of the travelling community who promised him £250 cash to take a Deutz tractor from a Hartlepool farm in the dead of night and deliver it to a location in Darlington.
Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court heard the 20-year-old was taken to Blue House Farm, in the town’s Dalton Back Lane, at 10.30pm, to check out where the crime was to take place, and was then driven to the rural location at 3am the following morning to carry out the theft.
The huge tractor and trailer was initially driven out of the farm by one of the travellers. But after Hutchinson took the wheel he drove down Dalton Back Lane, onto the A19 and then into Coal Lane, the back road to Trimdon.
It was in Coal Lane that police arrived and when the defendant saw the blue lights flashing he panicked, launching himself from the tractor, which carried on down the road until it smashed through a fence.
Justices heard he tried to run away, but was caught by officers after a short distance.
Prosecuting, Lynne Dalton said: “It was 5.15am when officers received a call from a witness to say a tractor had been taken from Blue House Farm.
“At Coal Lane officers saw a large trailer with a tractor pulling it at a slow speed.
“When officers illuminated their lights the defendant jumped out of the tractor causing it to crash into a fence. There was £250 of damage to the tractor and £100 of damage to the fence.”
She added: “In police interview he said he’d been approached by two unknown travelling males in Grangetown, near Middlesbrough, and asked him to drive a tractor from Hartlepool to Darlington. He agreed because he was short of money.
“One of the other men initially drove the tractor out of the farm and then the defendant took over. He said he jumped out of the tractor because he was scared.
“He said he didn’t mean to cause the damage and he initially didn’t believe the tractor was stolen. When he realised it was stolen he put it out of his mind because he wanted the money.”
Hutchinson pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicle taking, driving without insurance and otherwise than in accordance with a licence on October 22. The court heard Hutchinson had convictions for theft in 2009, and in December last year.
Mitigating, Rachel Dyson said: “He was taken to Hartlepool earlier in the evening and shown the location and was effectively told what he had to do, and told that when he was taken back there in the early hours of the morning he would drive the tractor and receive £250 on delivery.
“That obviously never happened because police stopped Mr Hutchinson.”
She added: “As a result of being arrested, Mr Hutchinson’s mum has thrown him out of his home address. He did it in order to get money for the obvious forthcoming festivities in order to buy gifts.”
Chairman of the bench Monica Arthur adjourned sentencing until Monday and released Hutchinson, now of Kensington Road, in Middlesbrough, on unconditional bail.