A train-hopping thief who stole passengers’ laptops has been given six months to reform on a rehab course or face jail.
Barry Costello, 41, from Billingham, was caught by British Transport police after he was spotted switching trains between Manchester and Teesside.
A girl student burst into tears as she reported to a guard that he had tried to take her precious laptop and iPod after he sat next to her.
Costello was asked to leave the Trans-Pennine Express at Northallerton, and CCTV cameras recorded him standing on the platform for an hour before swapping his jacket for another one and then boarding the Grand Central train heading for Sunderland.
Prosecutor Rachel Masters told Teesside Crown Court that he had two holdalls and he was seen in possession of a third holdall that he had removed from the train.
He was arrested, and he said that he had sold an iPad and a MacBook to a taxi driver for £100.
After he was released on bail he returned to Billingham and he went back to the police station with another holdall which he handed to officers.
He made no comment in interview but in a second interview he said that he had travelled to Manchester from Hartlepool for a drug rehabilitation programme but he came home after one night on January 28.
He said he could not remember taking the MacBook and iPad.
He remembered handing-in the holdall.
Miss Masters added: “He was extremely remorseful and regretted his actions, and he said that he had taken a large amount of prescribed painkillers and he wanted to apologise for the pain he had caused.”
The girl student said in a Victim Impact statement that she delayed her return to university because she was so upset by Costello’s actions.
She said that she had been studying on the train and she felt it was her fault for not paying attention to her luggage.
Costello had 14 convictions for 30 offences for theft, burglary and drugs and he had been given suspended prison sentences.
Martin Scarborough, defending, said that Costello had a serious works accident in 1988 and he became addicted to painkillers followed by heroin.
He had now been chosen for a 12 months residential rehab course run by a Christian charity, and two workers from the Moses Project were in court ready to escort him to the centre in Nottinghamshire.
Mr Scarborough asked the judge to defer sentence to give Costello a chance to reduce his dependence on painkillers and to give himself the hope of a law-abiding future.
Judge Howard Crowson deferred sentence for six months until November 26.
The judge said: “There are things in your life that have caused you to take a very bad path.
“You at the moment have an opportunity to prove that you can put it behind you, to get behind some of the problems that you have at the moment.
“You have to prove that to me, so we will meet again in six months. If you have demonstrated you have maintained your progress in the Eden Project you will be allowed to continue it, but if you fail you will not.”
Costello, formerly of Low Grange Avenue, Billingham, but later of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to three charges of theft from trains on January 28.