Ex-drug addict makes a splash for charity he stole from

Stephen Taylorson at the Boxing Day Dip at Seaburn.
Stephen Taylorson at the Boxing Day Dip at Seaburn.
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Drug addict and thief turned charity champ Stephen Taylorson is to hand over hundreds of pounds to the forces organisation he stole cash from.

The 50-year-old was convicted of stealing a Royal British Legion (RBL) money tin from a Sunderland chip shop in November 2014.

Stephen Taylorson caught on CCTV stealing the charity box.

Stephen Taylorson caught on CCTV stealing the charity box.

Castletown man Mr Taylorson was handed a suspended sentence by city magistrates for the offence, but later ended up in jail after being found guilty of taking petrol without paying.

There, after years of being addicted to drugs and carrying out petty thefts, he says he saw the light and turned his life around.

After spending three months in HMP Durham, Mr Taylorson took the plunge by signing up for the Sunderland Boxing Day Dip at Seaburn.

He has now raised hundreds of pounds for the RBL as a way of making amends for stealing the box from Redz, at Barnes Roundabout.

Mr Taylorson, who did the dip dressed in a super hero costume, told the Echo: “I’ve got £300 already paid in and about £108 left to collect, so it’s over £400.

“I’m looking forward to going to the Lions Club presentation night with other people who did the dip.

“I actually thought it would be colder than it was, but once you run in and get wet, it isn’t bad at all.

“I’d like to do the dip again this year and a skydive next year for the same charity.”

Mr Taylorson handed himself in after CCTV pictures of him stealing the tin appeared in the Echo.

In interview, he admitted taking money out of the tin to buy drugs, saying that there was about £25 inside.

Staff at Redz, however, said that the tin was heavy, indicating that a more substantial amount of cash had been collected.

Mr Taylorson said that he was high on drugs and could not say how much was inside.

As well finding God, Mr Taylorson says he is also a lot healthier since turning over a new leaf.

He now goes to the gym and weighs more than 12st, rather than the 8st he was when in the grip of his addiction to crack cocaine and heroin.

Mr Taylorson’s mum, Kathleen Rossi, who has been amazed at the change in her son, said: “It was lovely to see Stephen doing the dip as it was the first time I’d ever been down to watch it.

“He’s said he’s going to keep doing things for the same charity which is great.”

The 73-year-old added: “I’m very proud of him. This shows he has changed for the better.”