Friends took phone from collapsed man and left him to die in South Shields street

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A TEENAGE thief stole a helpless man’s mobile phone and left him lying in a back alley in a South Tyneside street – just hours before he was found dead.

Magistrates in South Tyneside were told Scott Stephenson rifled through the pockets of the 22-year-old while he lay helpless after falling over in the early hours of a cold night in December.

What we have is effectively someone left at the scene and their property taken - should more have been done.

Prosecutor Keith Laidlaw

The victim’s body was found the next morning near a play area in Dacre Street, South Shields, and a post-mortem examination later concluding that the likely cause of his death was hypothermia.

Stephenson, 19, and 25-year-old friend, Dale Walker had travelled on a Metro with the victim – getting off at Chichester, South Shields, at 11.50pm on December 16, of last year.

When the victim suggested they continue to socialise at one of their homes, the pair declined and ran off.

The man followed them and is thought to have tripped and fell.

Stephenson and Walker saw him slumped on a fence near a basketball court, but both left.

About half an hour later they returned to check on him, but instead, Stephenson stole his iPhone 4s, while Walker looked on.

Stephenson, whose address was given as St Mark’s Way, South Shields, admitted a charge of theft at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court. Walker, of Victoria Road, South Shields, entered a guilty plea to a charge of handling stolen goods.

District Judge Helen Cousins committed both for sentencing at Newcastle Crown Court on April 13.

Keith Laidlaw, prosecuting, said: “The victim alighted from the Metro at Chichester in South Shields at 11.50pm, and was in the company of Scott Stephenson and Dale Walker.

“It is said the victim said he wanted to continue with them to their home address, which was something Walker and Stephenson didn’t want.

“They ran away and the victim attempted to follow them.

“He gave up at the rear of Dacre Street. There is some suggestion he may have tripped.

“Walker and Stephenson saw him slumped at a fence at an open air basketball court and they say they left him there.

“It is said by the defendants that, about 30 minutes later, they returned back to the scene to check on his welfare.

“They found him lying there. Stephenson said he was breathing and snoring. He searched his pocket and stole a mobile phone.

“Walker later said that he watched as Stephenson stole the phone from the victims pocket.

“Now, the defendants have said as far as they were concerned, they felt he was alive and sleeping at the time the property was taken.

“What we have is effectively someone left at the scene, their property taken from them.

“The victim was vulnerable, he was 22, just a young man.

“The phone has never been recovered and is of sentimental value, with family photos contained in it.

“The ramifications of what happened spread far beyond the victim.”

District Judge Helen Cousins said the matter was so serious, sentencing should be carried out at the crown court.

Walker and Stephenson were granted bail until then.

Judge Cousins said; “They have taken away the one thing (his phone) that would have allowed him to get help if he was able to.”

“I will commit the matter to Newcastle Crown Court for sentencing.