A man was jailed for his involvement in the theft of, and the handling of quad bikes, stolen from rural properties last year.

John Thomas Fenwick was arrested after a police chase, initially by road, and then on foot, in the south-west Durham area in the early hours of February 27, last year.

Durham Crown Court heard he was at the wheel of a Ford Transit van pursued by police which was abandoned in Cockfield, before the foot chase as he headed in the direction of Butterknowle.

Backed by the support of a police helicopter, his movements were monitored from the air, helping officers on the ground to stay in touch with him, until he was arrested, after a taser was deployed.

Fenwick immediately claimed he had not been in the van, but admitted having driven a stolen quad bike, and was hiding under a bridge until the helicopter shone a light on him, at which he said he fled.

Annelise Haugstad, prosecuting, said a stolen Honda quad bike was recovered from the van, which was also unlawfully taken in the Penrith area the previous night.

The quad bike, taken in the Shap area of Cumbria shortly after 2.15am that morning, was said to be worth £8,400.

Footage from cctv near the front of a property from where it was taken showed three figures in the vicinity at 2.18am, but they could not be identified.

Miss Haugstad said the camera was damaged by one of the men who took the quad bike.

Another Honda quad bike taken in that area was said to be worth about £6,000.

The stolen van was said to be worth £8,000 and a further £1,000 of motor cross gear it contained was also taken.

When interviewed, Fenwick claimed he had been asked to drive on of the stolen quad bikes, from Copley to Cockfield that morning, but he denied having been behind the wheel of the van.

Appearing at a plea hearing, at the court in February this year, the now 28-year-old defendant, of Eggleston Walk, St Helen Auckland, admitted handling one of the stolen quad bikes, but denied dangerous driving and handling both the stolen van and the quad bike recovered the vehicle.

Read more: County Durham man accused of driving stolen van in police chase

The case was set down for a trial, but Fenwick changed his pleas and admitted dangerous driving and handling both the stolen van plus the second quad bike at a hearing at the crown court on June 16.

He also admitted a further charge of burglary at a hearing at the magistrates’ court the following day and the case was sent to be crown court to be sentenced with the other matters.

Miss Haugstad said that offence was at a farm barn in Scargill, in Teesdale, on December 17, last year, when a quad bike worth £4,000 was taken.

Fenwick was placed at the scene by dna evidence from a cigarette butt found on the farm drive way, and from the mouthpiece of a water bottle.

The victim of that theft later discovered a social media advert for the quad bike, which led to its recovery.

Chris Baker, in mitigation, said all three stolen quad bikes were returned to their rightful owners.

He said the first incident came a short time after his client came out of prison following previous offending, when he found himself short of money.

Mr Baker said the defendant was offered £250 to drive the van, while the chase with police was relatively short and no-one was injured.

Judge Ray Singh said the quad bikes, which seemed to be Fenwick's "commodity of choice", last year, were taken in, “professionally well-planned operations by a number of individuals”, targeting the properties from which to steal.

The judge said although Fenwick's previous offending implied he may have been involved, he had to sentence him for the offences which he admitted.

Imposing a 20-month prison sentence, he also banned Fenwick from driving for two years and ten months.

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