A Welshman who took part in a £40,000 raid at a railway depot was caught after his car was pictured returning home on the Severn Bridge.
And when officers went to Jonathan Phillips's house they found much of the proceeds of the break in, including one of the stolen vehicles.
But after hearing the dad, who has 123 previous convictions, is a primary carer for his disabled wife a judge decided not to jail him - even though he said he deserved prison.
Tessa Hingston, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court on Friday the Network Rail yard at Westbury train station was burgled on the night of Thursday September 5.
When staff arrived the following morning they found the office had been broken into with vehicles' key fobs strewn across the yard and storage containers opened.
As well as power tools and other equipment two vehicles, a Transit van and a Vauxhall Corsa both marked on the side with the Network Rail logo, had been taken.
Miss Hingston said shortly before 2.30am a convoy of three vehicles went through the tolls on the Severn Bridge.
The number plate of the Corsa was identified and it was followed by Phillips' own car and the Transit van.
She said the cameras on the bridge only got a good photograph of the driver of the stolen car, which was the defendant.
When officer went to his home they found the Corsa, on false number plates, parked just up the road, and the keys in his house as well as other stolen property.
He initially denied any wrongdoing but having seen the photograph accepted his involvement.
Phillips, of Llwyn-Onn, Aberdare, pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and driving a conveyance taken without authority.
Rob Ross, defending, said despite his client having a long criminal record he had been out of trouble for five years.
He said his role in the offence was to drive the stolen vehicle back then store some of the stolen property and he did not enter the premises during the raid.
Mr Ross said: "He has indicated to me that he did this because he was being paid to do it.
"Whatever way one likes to look at it, it was a very foolish thing to do for a man with his type of record. I am told everything has been recovered save the Transit van."
He said Phillips, who has schizophrenia, and he asked for the judge to show mercy on his as he was the primary carer for his wife who was left paraplegic in 2002.
Judge Tim Mousley QC said: "When I read these papers I had no doubt at all that you would be going to prison immediately.
"In my view you are completely undeserving of anything other than a immediate prison sentence.
"Having read everything that I have now read about you as an act of mercy, not for you but others, I am going to suspend that imprisonment."
He imposed a two years jail term suspended for two years and told him he must do 250 hours of unpaid work and be under supervision for 18 months.