Serial Hartlepool shoplifter was armed with fake bomb

Stephen Tobin.
Stephen Tobin.

A serial shoplifter who walked into stores armed with a fake bomb, a syringe and Stanley knife blades is now behind bars for two and a half years.

A judge at Teesside Crown Court said that 38-year-old Stephen Tobin, from Hartlepool, clearly intended to frighten security staff to enable him to escape.

Judge Howard Crowson said that Tobin's actions, including hiding a device in a back pack at a Boots store, in the town's Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, worked by causing people to fear that he would cause them some harm.

Prosecutor Paul Abrahams said that in April Tobin stole two electric toothbrushes worth £150 from Boots.

In September he produced a syringe at the Aldi store on the Teesbay Retail Park, Hartlepool, and he escaped with chocolate worth £149.

When he was arrested days later he had three Stanley knife blades.

Earlier this month he was caught in the TK Maxx store, at Dragonville, Durham, with a Stanley knife which he was using to cut security tags on a bottle of perfume

Andrew Teate, defending, said that the back pack device was relatively primitive and he carried the knife blades to open packaging.

He said that Tobin had a genuine desire to distance himself from drugs, which led to his offending

Tobin, of Jackson Street, off Oxford Road, who appeared over a video link from Durham Prison, was jailed for two and a half years after he pleaded guilty to shoplifting, possessing an offensive weapon and using threatening words and behaviour causing fear of violence.