A thief who caused up to £50,000 damage when he stole electricity cabling from a river has been ordered to do 140 hours unpaid work.

Stuart Emmason was spotted with two other men, dragging cabling from the river at Middle Brook, off Middlebrook Drive, Lostock, using ropes attached to a flatbed truck, Manchester Crown Court heard.

A nearby resident became suspicious and called the police, giving them the registration number of Emmason's vehicle, and they paid a visit to his home in Moorside Avenue, Farnworth.

Emmason, aged 51, told police he thought he was just taking scrap when he stole the cable on the evening of October 18 last year.

He pleased guilty to theft.

At an earlier court hearing, officials from Electricity North West said the cabling, which was worth less than £200 in copper scrap value, would cost between £40,000 and £50,000 to replace.

Emmason was ordered to do 140 hours of unpaid work and given a 12-month community order.

Sentencing him, Recorder Geoffrey Lowe told him the amount of damage he had caused was out of all proportion t the money he would have gained from the theft.

He told Emmason: "Just go away and stop doing this sort of magpie pilfering."