A RABBIT hunter jumped a steel company’s boundary fence to steal a gearbox worth almost £1,500 that was lying in the grass.
Steven Richard Mealin was walking his dog looking for rabbits on land near to the Corus plant off Brenda Road, in Hartlepool, when he spotted the loot.
Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court heard the 27-year-old decided to take the Lenze motor gear box to weigh it in for scrap so climbed the fence to get it.
However, Mealin was “spooked” by security staff, who were searching the area after earlier being tipped off about other intruders, so left his loot and ran.
Mealin, of Howard Street, on Hartlepool’s Headland, pleaded guilty to theft by finding on February 2.
Magistrates sentenced him to a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered him to pay £45 costs.
Prosecuting, Samantha Morgan-Bayliss said: “Police received a call from Corus to say there were intruders in the workshops in Hartlepool.
“They ran off to the south of the premises and made off over a fence. Security staff searched the area and found an electric gearbox laying on the ground next to the fence.
“Police carried out a search of the area along with others, they found Mealin, and he was subsequently arrested.
“The gear box was recovered still inside the Chorus grounds. It belonged to the company and was worth £1,434.”
She added: “In interview, Mealin said he’d been out with friends on a field next to Corus walking their dogs.
“He said they had seen the electric motor next to the fence inside the grounds of Corus. Once he’d seen it there he decided to steal it, got into Corus land and saw there was a wheelbarrow nearby which he thought he could put it in.
“He got spooked before he could leave the grounds so he ran off.
“He confirmed he had never been in the sheds where the original intruders had been seen.
“Corus got the electric motor back and there was no damage to the fence.”
Adrian Morris, mitigating, said his client’s actions were simply “opportunistic and impulsive”.
He added: “He and his friends were there that day for legitimate purposes. They had their dogs looking for rabbits.
“It’s a classic case of coming across this gearbox over the other side of the fence and in an opportunistic and impulsive fashion he thought he would take it.
“He put it in a wheelbarrow and then was disturbed and the rest, as they say, is history.”
He added: “Had he not made the admissions in police interview it may well have been that the Crown would have struggled to get the case to court because there was no witnesses to him being in possession of the gear box for any length of time.”