MORE than 675 Gwendraeth Valley homes were left without power after two sub-contractors cut through a live cable while attempting to steal copper wire from a substation in Tumble.

The pair, both from Cwmbran, were employed by construction firm Mannings, which was in turn a sub-contractor ofWestern Power Distribution.

Carmarthen magistrates were told how supervisor Kevin Bayliss, 47, and David Thomas, 43, were working at the site when they discovered disconnected copper cabling.

Prosecutor Gerald Neave told the court how the men used a motorised digger to access the disused cabling which was four feet underground.

“They found this unconnected copper cabling and decided to steal it,” said Mr Neave.

“Unfortunately, while they were trying to get it out they cut through the live wires.”

Mr Neave described how the incident cut power to at least 675 homes and cost Western Power in excess of £15,000 to repair.

David Williams, defending, said the pair were deeply ashamed of what they had done.

Both men pleaded guilty to attempting to steal copper cabling.

The case was transferred to Cardiff Crown Court where the pair will be sentenced on June 8.

A spokesman for Western Power said: “Metal theft is a nationwide problem but it has escalated in the last few years and is currently us around £1.5 million a year to put right. It affects our substations – but even overhead and underground lines have become targets, which is hard to believe when you consider the extremely high voltages involved.

“It’s lethal and the thieves are dicing with death for very small reward. They’re also putting at risk the lives of our engineers who have to repair and replace infrastructure that may have been left in an unsafe condition.

Similarly, other innocent people could become victims.

“It’s also incredibly inconvenient for our customers – especially those who rely on electricity for things like dialysis machines – for often when thefts occur power supplies are disrupted.

“Prosecutions have taken place and have led to prison sentences.

Wewill always prosecute.”