Jail for man who caused chaos on railways by stealing cable

Kevin Needham
Kevin Needham

A thief from Doncaster who was caught on a covert camera stealing railway cable from the East Coast Mainline been jailed after an investigation by British Transport Police.

Kevin Needham, age 48, from Great North Road. Doncaster, was sentenced at York Crown Court, today, Friday, 25 September, after pleading guilty to two counts of the theft of cable from the railway, and two counts of attempted theft.

He was convicted of two counts of theft and one count of attempted theft on 19 October 2014 and sentenced to nine months jail for each count to run concurrently.

The court heard that Needham had stolen, and attempted to steal, railway cable on four occasions from the Hambleton Junction area of the East Coast Mainline in Selby between 25, September 2014, and 29, October 2014.

On 25, September 2014, a covert camera placed in the area was activated and images of a man were captured. Subsequent checks made in the area showed nothing had been stolen but evidence of attempts to dig up cableing was visible.

Following the activation officers from BTP’s dedicated proactive cable team increased patrols in the area and the images were circulated on the national police database in an attempt to trace the man.

The camera was activated again on 19, October and the same man was captured attempting to steal cable but left empty handed.

On the 20, October 2014, 20 metres of cable was stolen from the location. The cable had been stripped and its outer sheathing had been left at the scene.

In the early hours of 29, October 2014, 8 metres of cable was stolen from the same location.

Later that night, BTP officers and staff from Network Rail attended the location and used a thermal imaging camera which captured two men leaving the scene and heading towards the town. Officers followed, stopped the two men and after comparing the images captured from the covert camera, Needham was identified and arrested alongside another man, and taken into custody.

Needham’s vehicle was seized and searched, and a number of items including gloves, hacksaw blades, and an electric current tester were discovered in his vehicle and close to the scene.

Telecommunications data also placed Needham at Hambleton Junction on each occasion when the camera had activated.

Needham was subsequently charged with two counts of attempted theft of railway cable and two counts of theft of railway cable. No further action was taken against the other man arrested.

Detective Inspector Mick Dawes, of British Transport Police, said: “Needham’s actions resulted in over £71,000 of costs to the rail industry which ultimately can be passed on to the fare paying passenger.

“Not only that but he targeted one of the main lines between London and the North which had a knock on affect and resulted in delays and disruption for passengers.

“Strong evidence, which included the images captured on the covert camera, items recovered in his car and at the scene, and tactics deployed by officers in connection with Network Rail staff, clearly linked Needham to the offences and left him with no option but to plead guilty.

“Cable doesn’t really have any real value to thieves or anyone outside the railway industry, as scrap metal dealers are highly unlikely to accept any cable or pay minimal costs in return. Yet the cost to the industry to replace the stolen and damaged cable is extremely high.

“Stealing railway cable is also incredibly dangerous and anyone seeking to do so risks serious injury – or even death – through electrocution.

“BTP, Network Rail and the criminal justice system take a dim view of this type of activity and simply will not tolerate any behaviour which threatens the infrastructure of the country.

“Technological and forensic advances are making life more and more difficult for thieves and are increasing the opportunities for BTP to detect criminals as had been clearly demonstrated in this case and I hope which serves as a stark warning to others seeking to profit from stealing from the railway to stay away.”