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Police helicopter tracked Cambridgeshire man who stole £22,000 digger from Peterborough

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A man who stole construction machinery worth more than £22,000 was foiled by the digger’s hidden tracker.

Robert Smith, 56, of Cuckoo Lane, Rampton, took the digger and trailer overnight between September 27-28, 2018.

The digger had a hidden tracker (43020093)
The digger had a hidden tracker (43020093)

The machinery was stolen from a substation in Wittering on the outskirts of Peterborough, but at 8.20pm on September 28, the digger’s owner was told by a telematics company that the vehicle was on the move.

It was at this stage that the owner knew it had been stolen and called police. Co-ordinates from the tracker pinged in a wooded area and the National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter was called to assist officers.

Soon after, the helicopter captured a van being driven out of the same wooded area, leaving the stolen digger and trailer behind. The helicopter tracked the van onto a main road and followed it until it stopped and two men ran from the vehicle on foot.

The van then continued but was stopped not long after by officers from Lincolnshire Police, with Smith – the driver of the van – being arrested on suspicion of theft.

In police interview Smith answered ‘no comment’ to all questions. He was later served charged with theft from the person of another. Smith denied the offence but changed his plea to guilty on the second day of his trial at Cambridge Crown Court last Wednesday (October 28).

He stood trial alongside two co-defendants who were found not guilty by jurors.

Smith was sentenced at Peterborough Crown Court on Tuesday (November 3) where he was handed 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months. He was also ordered to complete 70 hours of unpaid work and pay £2,945 in compensation to the owner of the digger and trailer.

Det Con Jon Edwards, who investigated, said: “This was a case where officers were helped immensely by the NPAS helicopter and it highlights how useful that assistance can be.

“Despite Smith’s ‘no comment’ interview, and claims he was out poaching in the area, he was essentially caught red-handed with the stolen machinery.”

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