A GANG of thieves caught red-handed unloading £16,500 worth of cider from a truck parked in Doncaster were tracked down by a police dog and the force helicopter.
One of the men was bitten by the dog as he tried to flee the scene of the crime off Woodfield Way, Balby Carr.
The driver was asleep in his cab when the raiders cut through the curtain side of the lorry and started loading the booze into a hired van, Doncaster Crown Court heard.
But they were spotted by a security guard who alerted police - and later commended by the judge for his public-spirited actions.
The police helicopter’s infra-red camera helped locate the men as they fled and hid in undergrowth, said Carl Fitch prosecuting.
One of them, Keiran Whiteley, aged 21, of Furnival Road, Balby, was bitten on the leg during his arrest.
Whiteley pleaded guilty to theft along with David Philip Halifax, 25, of Oliver Road, Balby; Harry Hayes, 20, of Cooke Street, Bentley; Indaprit Singh, 24, of Alexandra Street, Thorne; Joseph Bennia, 20, of Abbott Street, Hexthorpe and Adrian Desmond, 23, of Chamberlain Avenue, Cusworth.
Sentencing of Hayes was adjourned for a report but the other five all received 18 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and were placed on a six month curfew orders from 8pm to 6am.
Singh, Desmond, Bennia and Whiteley must also complete 100 hours of unpaid work.
Desmond Rosario, for Whiteley, said it was not meticulously planned and he “was not a bad apple - he was someone pressed into this. He was drafted in to make up numbers for this enterprise.
“He was also the man bitten by the police dog. He has suffered some sort of punishment already.”
Michael Upson said Halifax was not the man who organised it. “When Mr Halifax received the call, while he knew it was in relation to something not right, he didn’t know where he was going or what he was going to do.”
Guy Wyatt said a jail term would affect Singh’s job in his family’s fish and chip business and he was “thoroughly ashamed of himself.”
Andrew Smith said Bennia was “recruited no doubt to earn himself a small amount of money.
“He’s got three children all under the age of three and his partner desperately needs his assistance with these children.”