Police stop pair with stolen mini-digger

Two men who were stopped in the early hours towing a stolen mini-digger gave a plausible story to police and were allowed to continue on their way.

But officers were back on the case shortly afterwards, when the owner of the digger received a call from a tracking company to say his equipment was on the move.

Blackburn magistrates heard the tracking system led the police directly to the £18,000 digger which had been stolen from a site in Newton-in-Bowland.

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Martin Smith (28), of Barkerhouse Road, Nelson, and Mathew Shane McFarlane, (23), of Grove Lane, Padiham, admitted the theft of a Takuchi mini-digger. They were committed on bail to Preston Crown Court to be sentenced.

Catherine Allan (prosecuting) said the digger was being used on a site in Newton-in-Bowland where the owners were renovating a property. Neighbours raised the alarm when they saw the digger being loaded onto a trailer late at night.

“Smith was driving the vehicle towing the digger when police stopped them in the early hours of the morning,” said Miss Allan. “The officers accepted the explanation they gave and they were allowed to continue on their way.”

She said the vehicle was recovered but the owner had to pay £480 to get it out of the compound and for the hire of another digger while his was unavailable.

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Imran Hussain (defending) said his clients accepted they had embarked on a “hair-brained scheme. It was doomed to failure from the outset,” said Mr Hussain. “The vehicle was fitted with a tracker but also it was midnight and neighbours were suspicious when they saw and heard this machine being moved. The police were initially satisfied my clients were going about lawful business.”

Mr Hussain said in the short term his clients, who work in the building trade, intended to use the vehicle. “They hadn’t thought about selling it or anything like that,” said Mr Hussain.