Stephen Suffield

Two soldiers who made more than £22,000 by stealing SAS military kit have been ordered to pay back £552.

Non-commissioned officers Craig Davenport and Stephen Suffield (above) stole silencers, night vision goggles and laser sights from military kit stores and passed them on to a civilian friend.

Andrew Stevens, who ran airsoft activity firm Cracking Day Limited, then sold the items online to buyers in the Far East.

Forces News revealed last year that Davenport, 30, had been receiving praise as recently as April for his work as a military football referee.

Craig Davenport
Davenport was awarded the Dobsons' trophy at the 2016 Army Referees Annual Awards at Sandhurst

The Army Football Association described him on its Facebook page as an 'outstanding member of the Army FA Referee fraternity' after he received a 'fully deserved' Dobsons' trophy for his work over the course of the season.

The soldiers conspired for nine months, setting up a WhatsApp account named "Boys Toys" to discuss what could be stolen from the SAS storerooms at Hereford.

They were eventually caught after an airport scanner picked up a stolen pair of night vision goggles, which Suffield, who'd built up gambling debts, was trying to smuggle out of Heathrow and into Hong Kong.

Radioactive material in the goggles set off the security scanners, and police soon discovered a stash of other kit at Stevens' home in Waterlooville, Hampshire.

Prior to their discovery, Davenport had posted pictures of gear, which Stevens, who ran a paintball park, would comb through to see what could be sold in Japan and Hong Kong.

British Army night vision goggles
A pair of night vision goggles brought the theft to light

The former soldiers appeared at Portsmouth Crown Court for confiscation proceedings on Friday.

Judge Roger Hetherington said Davenport had made £19,903 as a result of the theft ring, but would only have to pay back £552.04 as that is the sum total of his assets.

Davenport and Stevens, 42, were jailed for 22 months and two years respectively in December, while Suffield, 29, was handed an 18-month prison term suspended for two years.

Davenport appeared in court via videolink from prison and will have to serve a further 14 days on top of his current jail term if he does not pay back the money.

Suffield was ruled to have benefited by £2,500 but has no assets so was not ordered to pay any cash back, having previously been ordered to pay £2,500 in compensation.

All three men had admitted conspiracy to steal items including stun grenades, silencers, mini-flares, body armour and ballistic plates from Stirling Lines Army Camp, Hereford, between October 2014 and June 2015.

Craig Davenport
Craig Davenport at Portsmouth Crown Court

Davenport, of Crewe, Cheshire, was a senior at the SAS base and had keys to five stores, with further responsibility for ordering goods and sending items away to be repaired.

He abused his responsibilities and ordered in goods so they could be stolen, as well as taking items that were already in the stores.

Suffield, of Pershore, Worcestershire, who joined in with the scheme to pay off £16,000 gambling debts, also took a number of items to give to Stevens.

Stevens, who was described as the "lynch pin" of the operation and "blinded by his obsession" for military items, sold the stolen goods to contacts all over the world.

Andrew Stevens
Stevens, was described as the "lynch pin" of the operation

The businessman, from Horndean, Hants, sold £28,500 worth of kit, including around £11,000 to a contact in Japan, via two Paypal accounts.

The court heard Stevens used eBay to connect with potential buyers through "innocuous" listings before emailing them directly about the sale of military items.

The MOD said they feared some of the stolen goods, worth around £45,000 in total, could have got into the hands of terrorist organisations.

After the hearing on Friday, a Ministry of Defence Police spokesman said:

"Ministry of Defence Police policy is always to recover, wherever possible, any proceeds of crime and stolen public funds and we employ specialist financial investigators for just this purpose."

Photography courtesy of Solent News and Photo Agency.