Two men who committed a series of luggage thefts from trains in the North East have been jailed following a British Transport Police investigation.
William Beard, 30, and Paul Charles Rayner, 35, both of Hartlington Terrace, South Shields appeared at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday.
Both men were sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and received a five-year Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO).
The ASBO bans both men from entering Berwick, Alnmouth, Morpeth, Newcastle, Durham, Darlington and York stations and also does not allow them to travel on any trains between Berwick and York.
The court heard that the duo committed a series of thefts of suitcases and luggage from trains on Friday, May 24, and Thursday, June 20.
On May 24, both men stole a suitcase from the 12.44pm service between Newcastle and Edinburgh. They were seen on CCTV boarding the train at Newcastle then entering coach D before moving the bag from the luggage storage rack and leaving the train at Alnmouth.
The case was later discovered in a coal yard nearby and a number of items were missing.
The bag belonged to a couple who were returning from their wedding in India and contained a silk photo album containing their wedding pictures which was worth more than £1,500. When the bag was recovered the irreplaceable album was covered in coal dust and ruined.
Later that day, the men targeted another service travelling between Newcastle and Edinburgh and stole a Swedish exchange student’s bag from the train, which contained all of her clothes and money.
The victim only noticed her case was missing when the train arrived in Edinburgh but subsequent follow up CCTV inquires showed both men boarded the train and left with the case at Berwick at 2.02pm.
The case was later discovered near the station with cash and a number of other items missing.
In the evening BTP received reports of a suitcase being stolen from a train travelling between Edinburgh and Leeds. The victim had placed the luggage in the racks in Edinburgh then discovered it missing on arrival in Leeds. CCTV showed Rayner board the train at Berwick at 6.49pm and steal the case.
On Tuesday, May 28, a warrant was executed to search the home address in South Shields of both men and more than 63 items were recovered, including a watch and luggage tag belonging to the first victim, which was still set to Indian time, and a number of items belonging to the Swedish student, which were arranged to be sent over and reunited with her in Sweden.
Both men were arrested and, after providing no comment in interview, were bailed pending further inquiries.
On Thursday, June 20, both men were arrested again after stealing a suitcase continuing a laptop from a train in Berwick. A member of rail staff noticed them acting suspiciously and contacted police who followed the men and arrested them.
Both men admitted stealing the case which they had thrown into a garden nearby and was later recovered. The laptop was missing and subsequent investigations have still not managed to locate it.
Rayner pleaded guilty to four counts of theft and Beard to three.
Speaking after the sentencing, Inspector Bob Moody said: “Beard and Rayner targeted trains in the North East to undertake a crime spree.
“With no thought for the impact on their victims, they stole from unsuspecting passengers again and again.
“Both men quickly became key targets for us and a lot of work was done to track them down and bring them to justice.
“Theft of passengers’ property is a priority for BTP and we have dedicated teams of officers who target this time of crime. These theft squads are out and about on the rail network daily undertaking plain clothes or high visibility patrols to deter thieves and catch people like Beard and Rayner in the act.
“BTP has recently launched Operation Magnum, a long-term initiative designed to crack down on the theft of passenger’s property. As part of the initiative, officers have issued video clips to help the travelling public spot 13 of the most common tricks thieves use.”