A DOZY puppy snatcher was caught red-handed after leaving his mobile phone number with his victim.
Stephen Ball narrowly escaped a jail term after Sunderland Magistrates’ Court heard how he stole the bulldog pup, worth £1,600.
JPs listened to how the bungling criminal rang the puppy’s owner after she advertised two puppies for sale – but by using his own mobile phone, the dog thief was caught out.
Prosecutor Paul Anderson said: “She received a call on March 16 from a male who asked if he could come and look at the dogs.
“He did not give any details, but she logged his number.
“During the viewing, he picked up one of the dogs.
“The victim was a little bit suspicious, as he did not know how to handle the dog.
“He asked if he could see the mother and when she turned her back, he ran off with the dog under his arm.
“His mobile was registered in his name and he was arrested.”
Ball, 28, of Whickham Street East, Roker, made no comment in interview and was picked out at an identity parade.
He went on to plead not guilty to theft, but changed his plea on the day a trial was due to take place at the city court.
The missing puppy was returned to its owner two days before she was asked to pick Ball out of a police line-up.
In a statement read out in court, she said: “I feel frightened by this incident, knowing that someone would come to my house and do this and, obviously, for the safety of my puppy.
“I don’t understand why someone would do this.”
Defending, Jason Smith said Ball claimed the theft was a desperate bid to pay off debts.
“He owes money to an unscrupulous loan shark and was given some pressure to repay that and began to panic.
“He thought this might be away of making some quick money.
“Unfortunately he left his contact details and was traced very easily.
“He did make arrangements for the puppy to be returned.”
Magistrates imposed a 10-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered Ball carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
No order for court costs was made, as the court heard that Ball owes more than £1,000 in costs and compensation, which is being deducted from his benefits.