Security guard stole gear from new fire station to sell on
ASECURITY guard who was assigned to protect a newlybuilt fire station secretly plundered the store room for life-saving equipment so he could sell it on eBay, a court heard.
When officers raided Karl Sheldon’s home they found a stash of two-way radios, firefighters’ helmets and other items.
Manchester magistrates court heard how the 52-year-old had also stolen tunics, thermal imaging cameras and even a heart defibrillator machine, all from the £10m Fire Training Centre in Bury where he was a night watchman.
Sheldon, from Castleton, Rochdale, denied theft by an employee – claiming he thought the items were being thrown out ‘and presumed it wasn’t against the law to take the items from the bin’.
He was found guilty by the magistrates after a trial.
Other employees first grew suspicious when items started going missing, and Sheldon was unmasked as the thief after colleagues saw one of the helmets for sale online and a sting opera- tion was begun, the court heard.
One member of staff posed as a prospective buyer interested in a table advertised on Sheldon’s account. After agreeing a price and being given his address for collection, the details were passed on to police.
Officers raided Sheldon’s home and found an Aladdin’s cave of stolen items including four helmets, promotional items for the fire service and six two-way radios. They also found four fire tunics, five fire helmets and a defibrillator at the home of his partner’s daughter.
Inquiries revealed CCTV had captured Sheldon as he walked out of the store room with black bags stuffed with items. He later claimed he thought the items were ‘rubbish’ dumped by the fire service.
Sheldon was found guilty of theft by employee of items worth £18,353 while his partner Tracey Pollard, 50, was convicted of handling stolen goods.
Both denied the charges. The original estimated value of the stolen items was £25,000.
The court heard the thefts occurred between October and November last year while Sheldon, who worked for Lockdown Security, was guarding the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue facility.
Lynn Sayers, prosecuting, told the court that staff noticed yellow and black helmets, personal radios, thermal image cameras, a defibrillator and balaclavas had gone missing.
Miss Sayers said: “’These are items which are personal to the fire service. Similar items were then found on eBay and they were being sold by Trac_Sheldo.
“CCTV footage from October 30 was viewed (and showed) Karl Sheldon entering emptyhanded. He was in the building for a couple of minutes and he came back out with a black box.’’
The court was told how the black boxes normally hold thermal imaging cameras.
Neil Fox, fire ground assistant based at the Bury Training Centre, said in a statement: “My colleague showed me a helmet for sale on eBay and I said that it looked like it came from training centre.
“I emailed the account holder pretending to be interested in a table and the account holder replied with his address. A bid was made on the table and we won.”
The address was then handed to police.
Sheldon, who had worked at the facility for 11 months, told the hearing: “I was emptying the bins from the kitchen, removed the rubbish and then noticed the items which I took to my house.
“I just presumed it wasn’t against the law to take the items from the bin, so I took them. I just presumed that somebody had thrown them away. I thought these were sought after items and I could sell them on.
“I just didn’t think it was against the law to remove them. When I was told I was being arrested for theft, I couldn’t believe it. I just thought it was rubbish. I didn’t steal anything.”
In her evidence Pollard, who is confined to a wheelchair, claimed she did not think the items were stolen and said her partner had been selling the items to raise money for his cat sanctuary he had set up to find homes for abandoned pets.
She added: “I believed that they were rubbish and Karl had brought them in.
“It never came into my mind that they were stolen items.
“Karl is an honest man, he is a giver not a taker. If I had known they were stolen, I would have called the police.”
The pair will be sentenced later following a court hearing next month, which will decide whether they should be dealt with before a judge at crown court due to the serious nature of the charges.
Sheldon and Tracey Pollard leaving court