A PLUMBER turned detective to catch the thief who stole tools from his van — when he recognised the description of the burglar and identified him as a former school pal.

Wayne Richmond was caught when Amar Majid’s neighbour told him about a burglar he saw breaking into his van on May 26.

Just a month after the burglary, Richmond tried to sell expensive guitars which had been stolen from a Heaton home.

Steve Woodman, prosecuting, told Bolton magisttrates how Mr Majid discovered his tools, worth £1,200, as well as an ashtray and £20 had been taken from his Toyota van during the night.

When he found the ashtray in a nearby garden, the quick-thinking plumber put it in a plastic bag and called police.

After a neighbour told Mr Majid about seeing the thief, the victim tried to track him down, finding a tile cutter at an address 43-year-old Richmond had lived at.

Richmond’s brother then returned the rest of the tools to him. After his arrest Richmond, who has a lengthy criminal record, claimed he had bought the tools but then admitted he had stolen them from the van after his DNA was found on the ashtray.

A month after the theft, musical instruments worth £8,000 were stolen from the home of a merchant seaman while he was working abroad.

However, Mr Woodman told the court the victim’s mother had sent lists of the stolen guitars and keyboards to Cash Converter and Cash Generator stores.

Richmond’s son had tried to sell a keyboard at one of the stores but was turned away because he had no ID.

Richmond sold guitars for £300 each at two shops on June 24 and police found he had also sold a keyboard and a guitar for £1,400 at the Johnny Roadhouse store in Manchester.

Most of the instruments were recovered but a Fender Telecaster guitar, worth up to £1,000, had already been sold to an unknown buyer.

Richmond claimed he had found the instruments in Queens Park.

Richmond, of Johnson Fold Avenue, Bolton, pleaded guilty to theft, receiving stolen goods and committing an offence whilst subject to a conditional discharge.

Anthony Shimmin, defending, told the court: “All his offending is opportunist and the reason for that is he has been subject to a drug addiction for some time.”

Chairman of the bench, Norman Morlidge told Richmond he was being sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years and will be subject to a 7pm to 7am electronically tagged curfew for six months.

Richmond must also pay a total of £1,250 compensation and attend a drug rehabilitation programme.