Cable thieves sniffed out by police dog

A POLICE dog was instrumental in bringing two men to justice for cable thefts.

Gavin Townsley, 40, of Hadston was found guilty of theft at South East Northumberland Magistrates Court last Friday alongside his accomplice Thomas O’Donovan, 19, of Newbiggin.

The pair failed to attend the hearing despite previously pleading not guilty to the charges.

But magistrates proved the case in their absence.

The court heard that Townsley and O’Donovan, were seen by security guard Robert Purdom at Butterwell disposal centre, in between Lynemouth and West Chevington, on June 5.

Prosecuting, James Long said that Mr Purdom saw the men acting suspiciously at about 9.10pm.

“He followed them around for about 20 minutes and observed them going in and out of the wooded area,” he said.

“They were behaving in a suspicious manner and as a result of that he telephoned the police.”

PC Neil Whellens, a dog handler was first on the scene and it was his dog which led to the men being arrested.

Mr Long said that the dog immediately picked up on the scent of the men and led police to the railway lines and through the woods leading police to three rolls of cable lying in the grass.

“The dog continued to track into an area of dense shrub and froze, alerting police to the presence of people,” he said. “When he did that police became aware of shapes lying concealed in the long grass.”

PC Whellens described how Townsley was wearing full camouflage gear.

The court also heard that a rucksack was found where the men were lying which contained a Stanley knife, a hacksaw, blades and crop cutters. A car belonging to Townsley’s girlfriend was also found at the site, with black plastic cable casing found in a trailer attached to it.

And Mr Long added: “When Gavin Townsley was getting into the police van he said ‘I and the lads cut cable from the side of the sire and wrapped it up to sell at a scrap yard’.

But in interview Townsley said that he played a ‘minor role’ in the thefts and that he had been ‘foolish enough to help a friend in stealing the cable’.

The pair are to be sentenced at a later date.