A BURGLAR set back a construction project with the theft of specialist equipment stored at a site compound.

Andrew Weedall drove to the building site on Tursdale Road, near Bowburn, at 2.30pm on June 23, last year.

Durham Crown Court was told he chatted to a security guard, who, due to Weedall’s suspicious behaviour recorded the conversation.

Omar Ahmad, prosecuting, said he left, but returned 45 minutes later and approached a secure container.

He found keys under the container to open bolt locks and remove site machinery and other equipment.

Mr Ahmad said the stolen equipment, worth a total of £5,901, was never recovered.

The witness who recorded the earlier chat showed it to an ex-employer of Weedall, who identified him.

In a statement read to the court a site manager said the equipment loss delayed the project while replacements were sourced from Portugal.

The work was put back between 12 and 16 weeks, and staff were transferred to another site, which he found, “deeply frustrating”.

Weedall, 38, of Broomside Lane, Durham, admitted burglary but claimed they had a lower value, a claim rejected at a trial of issue.

The sentencing hearing was told Weedall has nine convictions for 13 offences, five for theft and similar crime.

Among those other offences was the theft of a £1,000 Stihl saw from a compound unit on a Durham building site, in September, last year.

Mr Ahmad said an aggravating aspect of the latest offence for which Weedall answers was the significance of the loss and its impact to the company concerned.

“His previous convictions show a propensity to target building sites.”

Liam O’Brien, mitigating, said: “He seems to have got over committing these type of offences and has kept out of trouble since December.

“He can pay somethings towards compensation.”

Judge James Adkin told Mr O’Brien: “He targets building sites. He knows about tools and has a ready market to sell them. But, it stops now.”

Passing a six-month sentence, suspended for a year, Judge Adkin made Weedall subject to a four-month 7pm to 7am home curfew, with 20-probation overseen rehabilitation days.

He must also pay £3,000 compensation.

Judge Adkin told Weedall: “A lot has happened in your life since these offences.

“This is a last chance. Next time you burgle tools its going to be prison.”