A MAN stole a matchstick model of Darlington’s covered market following a drunken conversation with friends.

The model of Darlington's old town hall and clock tower, which was on display in the covered market, was stolen on September 30 last year.

Wayne Frederick Evers, 39, from Darlington, pleaded guilty to theft when he appeared at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court today (Wednesday, March 9).

The court heard that Evers was intoxicated at the time and decided to steal it following a conversation in the pub about how easy it would be to take the model.

Katherine Hannah, prosecuting, added: “The defendant entered the market in Darlington town centre carrying a cardboard box and entered the area where there was displayed a matchstick model of the old town hall and clock tower.

“The cardboard box was too small to accommodate the model so he left and returned with a larger cardboard box. He took the model, put it in the box and left.”

Evers, of Wordsworth Road, handed himself in to Darlington Police the following day after an appeal to return the model.

Stephanie Thompson, mitigating, said: “Mr Evers was very intoxicated at the time of the crime. There was an element of planning but that was only formed moments before it took place after there was a discussion with friends when it was said it would be easy to steal the model.

“The following day when he went on the internet he saw it had attracted quite a lot of publicity and appealing for the model to be returned. He was sober and beginning to feel very guilty so he handed himself in and returned the model.”

The model was created in the 1980s and was displayed in a museum for many years. It had been in storage for several years but was rediscovered by acting market manager Albert Nowicki, who put it on public display last year.

A statement from a Darlington Borough Council spokesperson, read out in court, said: “When it was taken I was personally disgusted that someone would do something to something which is priceless and there for the enjoyment of everyone and was part of the town’s heritage.”

Magistrates fined Evers £100 and ordered him to pay court costs of £105.