A “RELUCTANT” burglar who was coerced into helping to steal tens of thousands of pounds worth of catering equipment from a shutdown fast-food restaurant has avoided jail.

Bradford Crown Court heard how 48-year-old Mohammed Nadeem was found by police hiding under a car close to the former KFC at The Avenue Retail Park, off Tong Street, in the early hours of May 13 this year following an anonymous tip-off.

Prosecutor Rebecca Young said he had been part of a trio that had forced a fire exit door some hours earlier and, in two separate raids, removed commercial fryers and ovens, which had been taken down and left unplugged, which were loaded onto a van.

The burglaries, which were captured on CCTV, showed Nadeem and two others, both unidentified and still at large, removing the equipment, which was said to be worth more than £43,000.

The first incident began at 10.45pm on May 12 with the gang loading a van, later found to have been stolen in March, and leaving shortly before midnight.

They returned an hour later with Nadeem acting as a lookout.

CCTV showed him moving off-camera before returning to his position. Another man then grabbed him and pushed him towards the fire door and back into the building to remove more catering items. His position as lookout was taken by the third person, a woman.

Police arrived and caught the trio red-handed as they were loading a £6,000 oven into the van.

All three ran off but Nadeem was caught minutes later hiding under a car. When arrested he was still wearing gloves.

Nadeem claimed to have been acting under duress and had been forced to commit the burglary as he owed money for a car and was in the grip of drug addiction.

Police received another anonymous call on May 16 to say some of the stolen items were in the garden of a house at Amberley Street in Bradford.

He later pleaded guilty to burglary.

The court heard that Nadeem had a long history of previous offending including for dishonesty, theft, harassment, assault, sexual matters, and making off without paying dating back to 1997.

Mitigating, Rodney Ferm said Nadeem was “effectively homeless” at the time of the burglary and was a vulnerable drug user.

He added: “This man was exploited by those who thought this scheme up and who carried it into effect.

“He was treated at the very least as a menial member of the team. There were elements of coercion here.”

His Honour Judge Colin Burn described Nadeem as “the muscle” in the planned operation to steal the expensive catering equipment from the closed restaurant premises.

He said: “There was a degree of coercion, maybe even a significant element. The court has to reflect that.

“You were playing a role as part of a group but essentially there was a degree of reluctance and you were certainly playing a lesser role.

“Drugs have been, for many years, the source of your downfall.”

He sentenced Nadeem, of Amberley Street, to a total of seven months in prison suspended for 18 months, and ordered him to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work in the community.

He was also ordered to undertake 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days, including a thinking skills programme, and to complete a six-month drug rehabilitation requirement for relapse prevention.