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Caught in the act: The £10,000 cable thief who was snapped on hidden camera

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Paul Aldridge

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A cable thief who was preying on the railway was caught in the act – after committing a theft in front of a hidden CCTV camera.

Having already carried out one theft in partnership with another man in the Rumney area of Cardiff on 4 October last year, Paul Aldridge returned alone four nights later, tooled up and ready to strike again.

But after being captured on covert CCTV committing the first offence, officers were ready and waiting for him on 8 October and he was arrested at the scene.

During a search of the area, various tools and items linked to the theft of railway cable were recovered, while officers also discovered a cleared pathway through the heavy undergrowth which led directly towards the track, where they found a rucksack and hacksaw.

On arrival at custody, officers could see that Aldridge’s shoes and clothing were very dirty and he had black residue on his hands. While searching his house, a red suitcase used during the 4 October cable theft was seized, along with a receipt from a scrap metal dealer.

Aldridge, aged 41, of Railway Street, Splott, Cardiff, pleaded guilty to theft of railway cable, going equipped to steal and trespass, and on Tuesday, 15 May, was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court to eight weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months. He was also made the subject of a rehabilitation order for a period of 12 months, ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work on behalf of the community, and must pay £100 compensation, £115 victim surcharge and £85 costs.

Detective Chief Inspector Jaci Thomas, of British Transport Police, said:  “In planning and carrying out these thefts, Aldridge displayed a flagrant disregard for his own safety, and that of others, for no reason other than his own greed.

“He claimed that he’d found a length of cable hanging through the fence, which he then sold for £20. However, tools found at the scene were tested and forensically linked to Aldridge. This, coupled with the CCTV images, left him with no option but to own up to the thefts.

“The perception that these are victimless crimes could not be further from the truth. Cable theft costs the rail industry millions of pounds each year and forces delays which have a huge impact on passengers and train services. The total cost of Aldridge’s two thefts – including repair works and replacing the cable - is estimated at £10,500.

“Technological and forensic advances are making life more and more difficult for thieves and are increasing the opportunities to detect criminals, meaning – as this case so clearly shows - there really is nowhere to hide.”

Dave Cartwright, Operations Risk Advisor for Network Rail in Wales and Borders, said: “Trespassing on the railway is extremely dangerous and cable thieves risk serious injury or even death.

“We are working with British Transport Police to prosecute anyone caught carrying out cable theft and I am pleased that this collaboration has resulted in a prosecution. Stealing cable causes train delays and cancellations that directly affect people going about their daily lives, such as getting to and from work and visiting family.”

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Paul Aldridge

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