Serial thief pretended to be looking for missing hunting dogs

Gary Eltringham, dob 12/05/85, of Layburn Close, Houghton.
Gary Eltringham, dob 12/05/85, of Layburn Close, Houghton.
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A serial thief found by police on a building site said he was searching for his dogs which he had lost while out hunting the previous night.

Gary Eltringham, 30, had driven through gates left open for an expected delivery to the Hetton School construction site.

He stated he had attended the site in his white Citroen van because he had been out hunting the night before and had lost his dogs

Keith Laidlaw, prosecuting

However, when he was spotted by security and attempted to drive away, the gates had closed, trapping his van on the site in North Road, Sunderland magistrates heard.

Prosecutor Keith Laidlaw said a security officer had seen a van going into the site.

“He saw the defendant get out of the driver’s side of the van and walk around a Portakabin and he had a feeling he was not supposed to be on the premises,” Mr Laidlaw said.

Eltringham then got back into the van and drove back towards the now-closed gates. “He was seen shaking the gates,” Mr Laidlaw said. “He shouted at the security officer to open the gate, but he said he wouldn’t open them and called the police instead.

“Another male then gets out of the van and jumps over the fence. The first male takes the keys from the ignition. He makes off and jumps over the gates. Tools are found in the back of the van.”

Eltringham was arrested and interviewed by police.

“He stated he had attended the site in his white Citroen van because he had been out hunting the night before and had lost his dogs,” Mr Laidlaw added.

Eltringham, of Layburn close, Houghton, pleaded guilty to being found on enclosed premises.

He also admitted two counts of theft, one of a bicycle left secured on business premises at Phoenix Way, Rainton Bridge, on September 1.

The second theft was of a £700 Stihl saw, he was seen carrying from a building site on South View, Shiney Row, on September 23.

An employee at the site who had known Eltringham for 16 years, recognised him and called police. He was arrested in Hetton the next day.

As previously reported, Eltringham was given an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, on September 29, for a number of thefts from building sites and vehicles.

A probation report said he had been fully complying with the order.

Paul McAlindon, defending, said the offences were committed during a time his client had problems related to alcohol and accommodation.

He said that all of the current offences pre-dated those dealt with on September 29. He was sentenced to a conditional discharge for a year, while the suspended sentence order was left in place.

He was told to pay £1,095 in compensation and £180 criminal courts charge.