A man claimed he was offered £300 to tow a stolen caravan from the North East to London, a court heard.

Police pulled over a Toyota RAV4 vehicle, which was towing a caravan southbound on the A1 in North Yorkshire, on December 2, 2023.

Durham Crown Court heard that the stop was made as there appeared to be an irregularity with the vehicle’s registration plates.

But on checking the vehicle a spare set of plates, the genuine ones for the caravan, were found.

The Northern Echo:

Chris Morrison, prosecuting, said it turned the suspicions of the officers involved from the car to the caravan.

The 2020 Pegasus Grand Tourer was identified as having been reported stolen from a farm near Barnard Castle, where it was in winter storage, on November 30.

It was said to have been bought for £28,000 new, but with depreciation, it was still valued at more than £21,000.

Mr Morrison said the owners confirmed that the recovered caravan was badly damaged, leaving them with a bill of several thousands of pounds to have it repaired and leaving them unable to take up a £3,000 encampment fee site payment, open to them from March, until June.

There is also an insurance excess payment of £1,500 to meet.

An awning worth £1,100 and various other contents were also missing, including sentimental family photographs and other heirlooms.

Mr Morrison said the owners reported feeling “sick to the stomach” when they saw a Facebook posting after the caravan was stolen, offering it for sale.

The man caught towing the caravan on the A1, 22-year-old defendant Eddie Mutvie, of no fixed abode, admitted handling stolen goods, on the day he appeared for trial before magistrates recently.

He also admitted no insurance and driving other than in accordance with the licence.

But he denied having been involved in the original theft of the caravan, which Mr Morrison said could not be disproven.

Cainan Lonsdale, for Mutvie, told the court that he gave an explanation of being in a pub the previous evening when he was approached by an older member of the travelling community who offered him £300 to take it to London.

He accepted having his suspicions as to how the man gained possession of the caravan, but he agreed to the offer.

Mr Lonsdale said the defendant felt remorseful on hearing of the plight of the genuine owners, when he heard the circumstances of their loss.

The court heard that the defendant left school at 15 in his native Ireland and came to the UK in a bid to better his life.

Mr Lonsdale said if he is allowed to retain his liberty the defendant has been offered somewhere to live and employment by a family friend in Thornaby who has a home improvement business.

“He has instructed me he is genuinely apologetic for what he has done and is filled with regret.”

Mr Lonsdale added that the defendant is willing to abide by a condition of sentence, recommended by the Probation Service, to have trail monitoring requirement tag placed on him, to trace his movements.

The Northern Echo:

Recorder Tom Moran expressed his hope that the actual thief can be traced via the footage posted on Facebook.

He told Mutvie: “You claimed you didn’t know it was stolen, but you were a little bit suspicious.

“I doubt that, but the prosecution can’t disprove how you say you became involved in this.

“But the role you admit was still important in this.”

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He imposed a 14-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, during which the defendant must perform 100 hours of unpaid work.

Mutvie must also take part in 40 probation-led rehabilitation activity days.

The Recorder also ordered him to be subject of a six-month trail monitoring requirement and pay £1,000 compensation to the caravan owners, at the rate of £50 per month, with the first payment to be made on April 26.