A serial thief who targeted a school and several building sites – stealing £2,600 worth of equipment – has narrowly avoided going to jail.
Gary Eltringham was given an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, after taking generators, tools, and wheels over a period of less than three weeks.
On each occasion the then-homeless 30-year-old was seen making off with the high-value goods in his white Vauxhall Astra van, which he was also sleeping in, Sunderland magistrates heard.
On August 22, Eltringham took a petrol generator worth £500 from a construction site off Mill Hill Road, Doxford Park, then two days later he made off with two wheels worth £400 from a van in the grounds of St Robert of Newminster School in Washington.
On September 10, he stole another generator, worth £1,000, from a Taylor Wimpey site off Sedgeletch Road, between Chilton Moor and Grasswell, and the next day took a £529 Stihl saw from another Taylor Wimpey development off Murton Lane, Easington Lane.
Prosecutor Glenda Beck said: “He said he was skint and had three bairns to feed.
He said he thought it was scrap so he chucked it in the van and drove offGlenda Beck, prosecuting
“He said he thought it was scrap so he ‘chucked it in the van and drove off’.”
Eltringham, of Market Place, Houghton, admitted four thefts and asked for theft of a Stihl saw worth £250 on September 8, to be taken into consideration.
Paul McAlindon, defending, said: “There is nothing particularly sophisticated about the offending.”
Eltringham will also have to pay £1,000 in compensation, £85 costs, £80 victim surcharge and a £180 court charge.