A brazen fuel thief targeted petrol stations in Newcastle and Northumberland four times in a month to pay off a debt.

John Walton was driven to Tyneside Autoparc and a Sainsbury's garage, where he filled up cannisters with diesel.

The 32-year-old then pretended to have left his wallet at home and filled in a form promising to come back and pay but never returned.

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A court heard that, in total, he made off with £523.67 worth of fuel.

However, his face was soon recognised and Walton, who was on a suspended sentence at the time, was later arrested.

Now, he's been given a 12-month community order and banned from going into either petrol station for 12 months after pleading guilty to two counts of theft at North Tyneside Magistrates' Court.

Chairing magistrate, Stephen Cape, said: "You were part of a group. It was pre-planned and you had a significant role.

"We think it's serious enough for Probation to get involved."

The court heard that Walton, of Avebury Place, in Cramlington, targeted Tyneside Autoparc three times between March 25 and April 24 this year and Sainsbury's on April 6.

Sue Baker, prosecuting, said: "The defendant has arrived, filled up various cannisters with fuel and left without payment.

"On some occasions, he completed a form for those who arrive at the petrol station, fill up and realise they have left their wallet at home.

"That form invites people to contact the station as soon as possible to make payment and to leave their address and contact number.

"The defendant has made no attempt to follow up the form and no attempt to contact or make payment."

The court heard that Walton, who was a banned driver at the time, was taken as a passenger in vehicles to the petrol stations and got out to fill up the cannisters.

Mark Harrison, defending, said he had been coerced by others to carry out the thefts to pay off a debt.

The solicitor added: "He agreed, stupidly, to take part in this misbehaviour.

"He was not driving at any point. He was the person in plain sight and the person bound to get caught. He's embarrassed, appropriately, as he should be."

Walton was also fined £40 for breaching his suspended sentence and was ordered to pay £523.67 in compensation.

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