Prison for cable thief who caused town black out

John Maguire's crime was dubbed 'moronic' by expert source. Picture: Alan Richardson

John Maguire's crime was dubbed 'moronic' by expert source. Picture: Alan Richardson

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A “MORONIC” thief – who plunged part of a Scottish coastal town into darkness, blew himself up and caused more than £60,000 of damage when he tried to steal a live 11,000 volt electrical cable – was yesterday jailed.

John Maguire suffered horrific full thickness burns to his right hand and wrist after trying to steal the cable in Leven, Fife, in a bid to bolster his finances two days before Christmas.

His hand was swollen and covered in black and red skin

Fiscal depute Susan Armstrong

Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court heard his actions plunged a large area of Leven – including a supermarket and an industrial park – into darkness until ScottishPower engineers fixed it.

The court heard Maguire had caused the cable to explode when he pushed a tester into it to see if it was live.

That left a blast mark on an adjacent wall and led ScottishPower engineers, called out to deal with it, to suspect the culprit would be badly hurt.

Police launched a media appeal to find the thief, highlighting their concerns about his injuries. They found Maguire at his home on 27 December 2013 nursing his mangled right hand. He had failed to go to a doctor or get any other medical treatment, fearing his crime might be discovered.

A ScottishPower insider, who declined to be named, said of Maguire’s actions: “This was utterly moronic – it’s hard to imagine anything more idiotic than tampering with a live high voltage cable.”

Maguire’s skin was discoloured black and red and an ambulance had to be summoned to provide him with emergency treatment.

Fiscal depute Susan Armstrong said: “The cost of damage was estimated at £61,500.

“The circuit was tripped around 12:40am on 23 December and was made safe by an engineer. Another engineer arrived at 9:40am and found the cable had been broken.

“The cable carried 11,000 volts and supplied a large area of Leven, including an industrial area and a Sainsbury’s supermarket, which reported a loss of power.

“Police received anonymous information on 27 December that the accused was responsible and he was traced to his home.

“He had obvious injuries to his hand, which was extremely swollen and covered in black and red skin.

“He later told police he had suffered full thickness burns to his hand and wrist as well as burns to his face and there may be lasting nerve damage.

“He indicated he was sorry for the bother he had caused and said he had done it because he needed money for Christmas.”

Maguire, 54, from Leven, Fife, pleaded guilty to attempted theft. His not guilty plea to charge of culpably and recklessly tampering with the cable causing danger of injury and death was accepted by the Crown.

Sheriff Jamie Gilchrist QC jailed Maguire for eight months.

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