Two men who stole a gold chain during a fight with another man near a prison were seen selling it at a jewellery shop quarter-of-an-hour later, a court heard.

Dean Andrew Watts and Paul Thomas Cox came across the victim, who was with his partner, as all were on board a bus bound for Durham, on August 25 last year.

Durham Crown Court was told the couple were heading to the city to go on a prison visit to see a relative.

Chris Baker, prosecuting, said on reaching the city all four made their way towards HMP Durham, on Whinney Hill, where the couple were to make the visit.

The Northern Echo: Dean Watts, inset, and co-accused Paul Cox sold gold chain with 15 minutes of taking it during a

But as they neared the prison a fight developed between the male of the couple and Watts and Cox, at about 2pm.

During the scuffle a gold chain, said to be worth about £1,000, dropped from the man’s neck and one of the defendants picked it up.

Mr Baker said within 15 minutes cctv at Ramsden’s the jewellers, in the Market Place, Durham, showed three men entering the premises and selling it for £213.

Both defendants were recognised from the footage as being two of the trio entering the jewellers to make the sale and each was separately arrested within a few days.

The Northern Echo: Dean Watts, inset, and co-accused Paul Cox sold gold chain with 15 minutes of taking it during a

Watts, 32, of The Fells, in Plawsworth, and 46-year-old Cox, of Cumbrian Avenue, Chester-le-Street, were both initially charged with robbery arising from the incident.

They pleaded not guilty to the charge at a hearing at the court in September.

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A date was fixed for the trial, to start on February 13 and both were remanded in custody.

But, due to what Mr Baker described as, “significant witness difficulties”, he said the Crown took the view that guilty pleas by both defendants to a charge of theft was, “acceptable”.

He, therefore, offered “no evidence” on the robbery charge faced by both defendants.

Cox also admitted a further charge of theft arising from a shoplifting incident at the Co-op in Willington, on March 28, last year, when, with a female accomplice, four bottles of spirits, worth £66, were taken.

Counsel for the defendants, Tony Davis for Watts, and Brian Mark, for Cox, pointed out that their clients have been in custody since September 1 and August 29, respectively, and will probably have, effectively, served any sentence to be imposed, now they were to be dealt with for theft rather than robbery.

Mr Mark said, as with his co-accused, his client is, “in a much better place for that time in custody and is now drug free.”

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Recorder Tom Moran imposed a six-month sentence on Watts and a total eight-month prison term for Cox.

The Recorder said due to the time served in custody it means that they have now completed more than half of their respective sentences and, so, should be eligible for release on licence.

Watts was also ordered to pay a statutory court surcharge of £154 upon release, and Cox must pay £187.