'I find that astonishing': Train cleaner allowed to keep his job despite stealing watch worth £2,400 from passenger

A judge said she was "astonished" to hear that a Wakefield cleaner had been allowed to keep his job despite being found guilty of stealing a valuable watch from a traveller on a train.

Friday, 26th February 2021, 12:30 pm

Nicholas Hawes was caught on camera taking the watch, worth £2,400, after the owner left it on board a train.

Leeds Crown Court heard the victim travelled from London Kings Cross to Leeds on May 16, 2019.

Matthew Burden, prosecuting, said the man realised his watch was missing shortly after leaving the train and returned to the carriage.

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Hawes stole the watch as the train was at Leeds.

Staff helped him search for it but it could not be found.

CCTV footage was checked and Hawes was seen placing the watch between two newspapers before walking off with it.

The prosecutor said Hawes was a cleaner employed by an independent contractor.

He was recognised from the footage by a manager and arrested. Hawes was interviewed and accepted being the man on the CCTV footage.

The defendant claimed he had tried to look for the owner in order to return the watch but could not find him.

Hawes said he then went to the lost property area but it was closed and he was unable to find the shift manager.

The 41-year-old said he approached a Northern Rail staff member and handed over the watch.

Mr Burden said Hawes claimed he had been given a receipt but he failed to produce the document.

Hawes, of Pinfold Grove, Sandal, was found guilty of theft after a trial before magistrates.

The victim described how he spent hours contacting the lost property office after the offence and had become "disillusioned" with public transport.

He said: "I was particularly disappointed to realise I would never see my watch again.

"I feel strongly that whoever stole my watch should be made to pay."

The watch was insured and the owner was able to provide documents to prove its value.

Hawes was the subject of a suspended sentence order for burglary at the time of the offence.

Peter Byrne, mitigating, said Hawes was not on duty at the time of the offence but was travelling to work.

Mr Bryne said Hawes still worked for the same employer.

Judge Penelope Belcher replied: "I find that astonishing, but there you go."

Hawes was fined £900 and ordered to pay £200 compensation.

Judge Belcher told Hawes: "When you were arrested you purported to say that you had searched for the complainant, that lost property was closed and that you had looked for the shift manager.

"You then claimed you had the receipt which you never produced.

"I am not surprised that was not accepted and you were convicted after a trial.

"You breached the trust of what any decent citizen should do and hand in lost property.

"You are very fortunate not to be going to custody."