A fugitive who turned his life around while on the run has been given a chance to keep his freedom.
Anthony Parkin did not turn up at crown court last April when he was due to face charges of stealing over £500 worth of fuel from petrol stations in less than a week.
Instead, the 31-year-old, from Sunderland, fled to Bristol, where he found work, was promoted to supervisor, set up home with a partner and stayed away from trouble.
After more than 18 months on the run, Parkin was arrested while at work in the south west, and has now appeared at Newcastle Crown Court.
He pleaded guilty to making off without payment for fuel during nine visits to petrol stations between March 26 and April 1 last year.
Parkin, formerly of Earnwell Avenue, Sunderland, also admitted four charges of handling stolen goods relating to number plates he and his accomplice used to carry out the scam.
The court heard the stolen petrol, worth a total of £561, was sold on.
Prosecutor Michael Bunch told the court: "This defendant and his co-accused used the same motor vehicle on nine occasions between March 26 and and April 1 last year to fill up with petrol and drive off without making payment.
"In order to facilitate that activity, the vehicle had four different number plates attached to it."
The court heard Parkin's accomplice, who was on a suspended sentence at the time, received a seven month jail term.
Stuart Graham, defending, said Parkin has been in custody on remand for the last five days and would lose his job as supervisor at a car upholstery firm if he received a jail term.
Mr Graham said Parkin worked hard to impress his bosses when he found work in Bristol and achieved a promotion which enabled him to set up in a nice home with his partner.
He added: "He wanted to get away. The reason he stayed there was he wanted to get away from all the bad influences.
"He is completely clean of drugs and has his own home, a decent home, in a nice area in Bristol with his partner.
"He has done a remarkable change around.
"He is at risk of losing everything if he goes to custody.
"He has completely turned himself around."
Mr Recorder Nigel Sangster QC said Parkin could not expect a lenient sentence "because he went on the run".
But the judge said Parkin could be given a chance and the jail term could be suspended.
Recorder Sangster told him: "I am told you decided to start a new life down south and you have done that successfully.
"I am pleased to hear that."
Parkin was sentenced to seven months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with £561 compensation and £500 costs.