COPPER cable with “the diameter of a coffee cup” was ripped from a sewage pumping station by a man desperate to pay off his debts.

Roy Fisher, 46, broke into the Thames Water facility off Grenoble Road, Greater Leys, on February 17 and took a 15ft length of valuable metal.

He admitted one count of burglary, which caused a total of £7,000 of damage, and was sentenced at Oxford Crown Court yesterday.

Prosecutor Cathy Olliver said Fisher, of Deer Walk, Blackbird Leys, smashed off a padlock on the pump room and cut the cable.

She said: “Fortunately it was the standby pump, not the working pump. “Had it been the working pump there would have been bad consequences for people of Oxford in terms of flooding.”

Fisher, who has 50 previous convictions, was arrested close by in a Renault Espace driven by his partner and told police he did it because he was “completely skint”.

Sarah Smith, defending, said her client stood to make £150 from the theft and committed the offence after both he and his partner lost their jobs.

Recorder Sandeep Kainth gave Fisher a one-year jail term, suspended for 18 months, with 200 hours’ unpaid work, a five-month curfew and £200 costs.