Two crooks were left “scared to death” after being arrested over an alleged murder plot and linked to a potential drive-by shooting.
Thomas Johnson, 25, and Gareth Bainbridge, 36, both bought and sold on the same motorbike, which was stolen from a hospital on Wearside, and later ended up in a van at a Northumberland caravan park, along with a shotgun and ammunition.
However, the two were left shocked when their dishonest actions later saw them arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.
Their inadvertent involvement in the episode began when a Honda CBR 600 motorcycle was stolen from the grounds of Monkwearmouth Hospital on August 4.
Its owner had parked the £1,500 vehicle at 7.30pm that evening, but when he returned at 9pm it had gone, Sunderland magistrates heard. “Mr Bainbridge is the first in the chain,” prosecutor John McGlone said.
“The bike is stolen by somebody else, he then purchases it.
“He’s put it into the back of a van with a sawn-off shotgun and 20 cartridges for use in a drive-by shooting”Gerry Ford, defending
“He is the first person to sell it on. The bike then moves along the chain and ends up with Mr Johnson before it goes to Sandy Bay.”
Mr McGlone said a Renault van was seen arriving in Sandy Bay Caravan Park, in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, on August 13.
He said the red motorbike was moved from the back of the Transit and placed into the Renault, before both vehicles left the caravan park at 6.45pm.
On August 24, the bike was located in Cramlington with false registration plates.
Both defendants were arrested on September 12. The bike was eventually returned to its rightful owner.
Self-employed scrap dealer Johnson, of Moorsley Road, Hetton, and hod carrier Bainbridge, of School Road, East Rainton, went on to plead guilty to dishonestly receiving stolen goods between August 4 and August 13.
Gerry Ford, defending both, said Johnson had loaded the stolen bike into a van that, unbeknown to him, contained something a little more sinister.
“They are aware of the folly of their lack of cognitive thinking,” Mr Ford said. “Both were arrested by police and both had a great shock.
“Mr Bainbridge bought the bike and sold it to Mr Johnson. What he’s done is put it into the back of a van with a sawn-off shotgun and 20 cartridges for use in a drive-by shooting.
“Imagine their shock when they were both arrested by police for conspiracy to commit murder.
“Mr Johnson spent 14 hours in the police station in Ashington and was questioned three times. He’s gone to sell the bike to make a quick buck, and look where it ended up.
“To be told ‘I’m arresting you on conspiracy to commit murder’ – it scared them to death That memory will serve to remind these gentlemen that it’s best not to get involved if you are not sure what is going to happen in the end.”
Both defendants were sentenced to a 12-month community order, with 100 hours of unpaid work and they were each told to pay a £180 criminal court charge.
Bench chairman John Price said: “At the end of the day there was a big twist to it, what this motorbike was going to be used for.”