A TANKER driver was caught red-handed after stealing £15,000 of titanium aircraft part samples, vital to investigators if a plane crashed.

Sean Done, 27, took the off-cuts from the Rolls Royce factory in Barnoldswick, but was caught after he had tried to rope in a worker and managers were informed.

Done later returned to his employers in Liverpool, threw his keys on the table and resigned, Burnley Crown Court heard.

The court was told Done would have had difficulty weighing in his haul for cash at a scrapyard as titanium was a very specialised metal.

Rolls Royce had to keep the test pieces as, in the event of any engine failures, air crash investigators would need the samples to study.

The defendant, of Warrenhouse Road, Kirkby, admitted theft on February 2 and had been committed for sentence by a district judge at Pennine Magistrates Court.

He was given a 30-week jail term, suspended for a year, with 80 hours unpaid work. He had no previous convictions.

Prosecuting, Stephen Parker, said at the time, Done had been working for a Liverpool firm and he was to transport chemicals to various Rolls Royce sites.

On February 2, he was reported to managers at Barnoldswick by a staff member. Done had approached the employee and said: “I’ve got a proposition for you. How would you like to make some money?”

Mr Parker said Rolls Royce managers found some titanium off-cuts used in the manufacture of fan blades in his vehicle.

Defending, Amanda Johnson said Done acted ‘in a moment of madness’ and out of financial desperation.

Judge Beverley Lunt said: “There is a real problem with people stealing what they regard as scrap metal. They don’t care what its value or importance might be.”

She told the defendant: “To risk everything for that is just insanity.

“I am satisfied there is no real risk of you offending like this again.

“You have got debts. You need to grow up and deal with them properly.”