Barking burglar claimed he was rescuing foxes

John Harwood appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court (Pic: John Stillwell/PA)

John Harwood appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court (Pic: John Stillwell/PA) - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

A removal man who broke into a national grid switch room told Snaresbrook Crown Court he was only on the site to rescue trapped foxes.

John Harwood, 51, of Endeavour Way, Barking, broke in to the site in Armada Way, Beckton, with a bag of tools to try and saw free some exposed cables, causing £15,400 of damage.

The switch room, which contained wires that carried thousands of volts, was declared unsafe and left out of action for days.

Harwood admitted burglary but insisted he hadn’t entered the site intending to steal anything.

“I heard this strange noise […] like an animal in distress,” he said.


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Two foxes were trapped in a quarry, he said.

He alerted the security guard but two days later saw the foxes were still trapped – so he took down some makeshift fencing and put it in the hole for them to use as a ladder.

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Harwood said only then did he notice the switch room 100 yards away.

The door was already open, the tools were there and somebody else had already started hacking at the cable, he alleged.

But Harwood decided to stop his crime after a change of heart.

He was tracked down through DNA found on a bottle.

A bag full of tools and a hacksaw had also been left.

Richard Jones, prosecuting, said: “You had taken tools to the site to steal.

“The foxes story is just that – a story.”

Defending, Nicholas Wood said: “If the tools were his it seems odd he didn’t take them with him.”

Judge Patrick Swaffer on Monday called the foxes story “entirely implausible”.

He added: “I am sure he entered the premises equipped and by his actions contributed to rendering the premises unsafe.”

Harwood was granted unconditional bail until his sentencing on December 12.

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