This is the CCTV footage images which helped snare thieves Mark Swinhoe and Dale Welsh, who stole tens of thousands of pounds worth of fish from their owners’ ponds.
The stills from security cameras outside Gemma and Neil Riley’s home in Red House, show Swinhoe, 21, and 25-year-old Welsh systematically empty ponds of fish worth up to £30,000.
The pair are seen over a three-hour period in the early hours of May 27.
Along long with an unidentified accomplice, they are seen entering the Rileys’ rear garden.
After helping themselves to the ornamental pets and damaging pumps and filtering equipment in the process, the culprits go next door to Mrs Riley’s parents, Gwen and Andrew McNaught, who were away on holiday at the time.
It is in the McNaughts’ pond that Swinhoe and Welsh discover the family’s prized two-foot-long koi carp, which had been reared by Mrs McNaught for more than 20 years. The family were left heartbroken by the theft of the valuable fish, which could be worth anything from £8,000 to £30,000 and have been described as “irreplaceable”.
The pair of thieves also went into the back garden in Southwick of Robert Smithson and plundered his pond of dozens of fish, which used to belong to his late mother.
Swinhoe, previously of Marley Crescent, Marley Potts, but said he was now of no fixed abode, and Welsh, of Redmond Square, Red House, both admitted three counts each of theft and criminal damage when they appeared at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
The court heard from probation officer Alan Cutting how Swinhoe has been ‘sofa surfing’ after being kicked out by his uncle. He has two children and has been deemed unfit for work and claims sickness benefits.
Mr Cutting said Welsh lives with his mother, brother and sister and is studying an engineering course at university.
He binge drinks, uses cannabis and suffers from ADHD, an eating disorder and OCD, the court heard. He also is unfit for work.
The pair were sentenced to a three-month, electronically-monitored curfew from 7pm until 7am, by Judge Roger Elsey, who branded them “foolish” and “greedy”.
Jason Smith, defending both Swinhoe and Welsh, explained to the hearing: “This arises out of a whimsical idea to set up or restock their own pond.”