A HAPLESS metal thief is lucky to be alive after the electricity cable he was trying to steal exploded, sending 11,000 volts through his body.

Wayne Houfe, of Darlington, was engulfed in flames as the live cables he was cutting through in an electricity substation exploded, the town's magistrates heard today (Tuesday, February 12).

The bungling burglary happened in the Allington Way area of Darlington at around 2am on October 18 last year. - leaving 44-year-old Houfe, with third degree burns, putting him in hospital for over a month.

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The father-of-two admitted the burglary, which left 25 homes without power for 26 minutes and caused more than £1,000 worth of damage.

Graham Hunsley, mitigating, said Houfe, of Carlton Moor Crescent, had heard about the value of cable and decided to try to cash in.

“The result was catastrophic,” he said.

Houfe is still receiving ongoing treatment at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary and is due to undergo a skin graft in the next four months, as well as an operation on his eye and his left thumb.

Hilary Payne, from the probation service, told the court: “He is in such discomfort just sitting down. He takes 31 tablets every day and is in constant pain.

“This man has been punished severely because of his actions. The result is with him constantly now.”

Magistrates gave Houfe a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

Glynn Wales, chairman of the bench, said: “These are serious matters. You are a standard example of the folly of the activities; you are going to carry those scars forever.”

Detective Sergeant Sean Jackson, of Darlington CID, said Houfe was lucky to escape with his life.

“The injuries that he sustained hopefully will serve as a lesson to him and hopefully anyone else who will be foolish enough to interfere with substations,” he added.

Roderick Stuart of Northern Powergrid, who owns the substation, said metal and cable theft is a huge problem across the country and costs the company around £8 million every year.

He said: “The cables are carrying thousands of volts and if you cut through them you are very lucky to survive.

“It is a reckless act that not only endangers lives but disrupts the power supply to homes.”

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