Man living in tent paid £200 by crooks to drive stolen tractor

Mark Tinsley with the tractor that was recovered after its theft on October 9. SG121013-114NG
Mark Tinsley with the tractor that was recovered after its theft on October 9. SG121013-114NG
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An ex-convict gave in to temptation and took a £200 bribe from three crooks to drive a tractor they stole from a South Holland farm.

John Devlin (38), who has lived in a tent since he came out of prison in April, twice resisted the offer – but then the cash was “waved under his nose”.

Devlin was caught when a witness, Luke Spencer, spotted the tractor being driven at 8.35pm on October 9 on Jekils Bank, Holbeach St Johns, and recognised it as belonging to one of his former friends, Martin Cook.

Jim Clare, prosecuting, said Mr Cook confirmed the tractor should not be on the road and police were called.

Devlin, now bailed to Hawkins Drive, Wisbech, was sent by Spalding magistrates to Lincoln Crown Court for sentence for handling the stolen CLAAS tractor belonging to P C Tinsley Ltd, of Holbeach Hurn, and driving the tractor while disqualified.

Devlin, also known by the surname Cannon, pleaded guilty to both offences at Thursday’s hearing.

Mr Clare said the offence was serious because Devlin made himself available to other criminals and had agreed to drive the stolen tractor from point A to point B.

He told magistrates: “We would submit this is professional offending. This is not a group of kids out on a jolly. The defendant accepts that he was driven to the farm and waited outside while the tractor was stolen.”

Solicitor Kevin Warboys, mitigating, said Devlin had driven only 500 yards before the witness saw him and had gone a mile before police arrived.

He said: “He was going to get nothing beyond the £200 cash. Needless to say that would only be paid on completion of the job and, in fact, he got nothing at all because the job wasn’t completed as you have heard.”

Mr Warboys said family relationships had broken down and that’s why Devlin has been living in a tent since he came out of prison. His possessions amount to a couple of quilts.

Devlin also has health problems due to a legacy of drug abuse.

* The value of the CLAAS tractor was not given in court but revealed to be about £30,000 by the chairman of Nene Potatoes, Mark Tinsley.

Mr Tinsley said last month: “A man saw the tractor in Whaplode Drove and had the intelligence to recognise that it was unusual for it to be driven at that time of night.

“He got on to us very quickly and had the good sense to ring the police who apprehended the driver and the tractor.

“We’re giving the man a small reward for doing what he did and I’d encourage people to report things that look suspicious, even if they may not seem significant.”

He said cutting thefts would cut farm insurance costs.