Man stole tortoise to pay for booze

A MAN will have to shell out £300 after admitting stealing a rare tortoise from a pet store.

Keith Odgers, 24, appeared before Hartlepool Magistrates' Court after the Horsefield tortoise, worth 100, was stolen from Hartlepool's Stranton Pets, in Vicarage Gardens.

Vickie Wilson, prosecuting, said that on January 13 Odgers walked into the pet shop, took the tortoise from its heated cage and left, concealing it under his jacket.

Magistrates heard Odgers later sold it to buy alcohol.

She said Odgers, from Holt Street, Hartlepool, was caught on CCTV. She said Odgers told officers he "sold it to get blaked" but would not reveal who to.

Mitigating, John Relton urged magistrates to give Odgers credit for his timely guilty plea and the fact that he has no previous convictions for dishonesty.

He said that Odgers' decision to steal was influenced partly by drink and that there was no suggestion of cruelty or mishandling of the animal.

Odgers, who pleaded guilty to stealing the tortoise, was fined 100 and ordered to pay 100 compensation for the tortoise.

He was ordered to pay costs of 85 and a victim surcharge of 15.

Mavis Austin, 59, who has ran the store with her husband Ken, 63, for seven years, appeared inthe Mail when the tortoise was taken.

She said at the time that she always had three of that particular type in stock.

She said: "They are a year old and only the size of the palm of your hand and they grow to about 14 inches in length.

"But it is a strange type of theft as I wouldn't imagine a tortoise is something you can go and sell in a pub."