A PAIR of opportunist thieves caused irreparable damage to a stolen car after heading to McDonald’s for food.

Jakey Smith spotted the keys hanging out of the victim’s front door and grabbed the opportunity to steal the Kia car that was parked outside a house in Darlington before picking up his friend Ethan Dann.

The pair then headed along the A1 towards Newton Aycliffe before stopping at a service station where they inadvertently put the wrong fuel in the vehicle.

Teesside Crown Court heard that they then headed to the McDonald’s at Newton Park Services on the A167 after abandoning the broken-down vehicle on the service station forecourt.

The Northern Echo:

Rachel Masters, prosecuting, said Dann, pictured above, found the victim’s bank card in the car and decided to pay for fuel before Smith used it again to buy more fuel before giving up and heading to get some food.

In total the pair spent £47.17 but they managed to cause so much damage to vehicle’s engine that insurers wrote it off.

Smith pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud, aggravated vehicle taking, driving whilst disqualified and driving with no insurance. Dann pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, theft, aggravated vehicle taking and possession of a knife.

The Northern Echo:

Duncan McReddie, mitigating on behalf of Smith, pictured above, told the court that damage to the car was accidental.

“The damage was caused by the introduction of the wrong type of fuel into the car’s engine,” he said. “The damage was not caused by dangerous or reckless driving.”

Zoe Passfield, mitigating for Dann, added her client had at first said he was coerced into getting into the stolen car but eventually pleaded guilty to willingly being driven off.

She added: “As for the possession charge, he will simply say that he forgot he had it in his pocket – it had been there some time and he just forgot it was there.”

The court heard that Smith had a lengthy catalogue of similar offences and had been recalled to prison on licence for robbery and burglary following his arrest in March.

Sentencing the pair to 12-months custody, Judge Stephen Ashurst the defendants both had extensive criminal records.

“This offence was not planned,” he said. “It was an opportunistic offence when you see a set of keys left in the door of the unfortunate victim of this crime.

“She had left her on the street and by accident she had left keys in the door and you took the opportunity to drive off in it.”

He added: “You drove the car for some distance but unfortunately you had put the wrong fuel in it and the car was irreparably damaged and had to be written off by the insurance company.”

Smith, formerly of Darlington, was also given a four-month consecutive sentence for fraud and another four-month consecutive sentence for driving whilst disqualified. The 21-year-old was banned from driving for three years.

Dann, whose address was given as Durham Prison, is also formerly of Darlington. The 21-year-old was also given an eight-month consecutive sentence for possession of a knife and banned from driving for 18-months.