DAMAGE of at least £27,500 was caused by a metal thief who made £100 from his illicit escapade, a court heard.

Aaron David Child and an accomplice took part of an air conditioning unit at Spectrum Business Park, in Seaham, overnight between April 9 and 10 last year, after damaging the site fence.

Durham Crown Court was told it was reported to police on April 11, and, when closed circuit tv was subsequently reviewed, two figures were spotted on the footage.

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Jonathan Walker, prosecuting, said the pair were seen at the site, before leaving and returning later.

Despite trying to conceal their identities, a police community support officer recognised Child, who was arrested on April 19.

Mr Walker said Child made immediate admissions, telling police he made £100 by selling the stolen air conditioning equipment at a scrap yard in the Blackhall area.

He also admitted stealing £20 worth of alcohol from another nearby unit more than three weeks earlier.

Mr Walker told the court £300 worth of damage was caused to a window smashed by Child on that occasion, while the site owners were left facing a “considerable” bill for repairs after the second theft, not least the £27,500 to replace the air conditioning unit.

He said the bill could rise to a potential £63,500, plus VAT, if all the repairs were carried out, leaving the site operator at risk of losing a potential tenant considering moving into that unit.

Child, 25, who was living in Seaham at the time, but now said to be of Ash Grove, Consett, admitted two charges of theft, but also breaching a suspended prison sentence, imposed at the court in February for a commercial burglary and going equipped for burglary.

Andrew Rutter, mitigating, said all the offences were committed at a time earlier this year when the defendant was out of work and without benefits, leading him to turn to acquisitive crime, “just to get by”.

But he added that the terms of the order imposed as part of the sentence earlier in the year, Child has been working with, “various agencies” to address his issues.

Although Child remains considered a risk of future offending, Recorder Ian Atherton imposed a 13-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, with 30 Probation Service-run rehabilitation activity days

Recorder Atherton told him: “You need to make this work.

“You’re at an age now where you either abide by these orders or go to prison.”