Man Who Was Chased By Police Helicopter Found Not Guilty Of Stealing a Boat

PUBLISHED: 10:44 19 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:56 04 May 2010

A MAN who was chased by a police helicopter as he steered Councillor Bill Hunt s stolen cabin cruiser along the river between Littleport and Ely has been cleared by a court. Sam Coleby denied that he knew the cruiser Lady Jennifer - which had been cover

A MAN who was chased by a police helicopter as he steered Councillor Bill Hunt's stolen cabin cruiser along the river between Littleport and Ely has been cleared by a court.

Sam Coleby denied that he knew the cruiser "Lady Jennifer" - which had been covered in black paint -- was stolen at the time of the incident, and on Thursday Ely magistrates found him not guilty of possessing criminal property.

Coleby had claimed that he was offered the use of the boat for a fishing trip by a man who he refused to name, fearing reprisals.

Prosecuting, Yetunde Fawehinmi said Cllr Hunt, a member of Cambridgeshire County Council and East Cambridgeshire District Council, bought the boat 16 years ago, and it was treasured by his family.

The cruiser was usually moored at Ely Waterside, and was in good condition when Cllr Hunt checked it on September 3 last year.

But eight days later police saw 20-year-old Coleby steering the black painted boat in the early afternoon near Queen Adelaide Bridge, moving towards Littleport.

PC Barry Taylor told the court: "I shouted at him to pull over, saying it was pointless to go on, because the river was blocked. But the boat kept on going; it was obvious he was taking no notice."

"It took several police officers and a police helicopter to intercept the boat and get it back, there was a chase involving the police helicopter," said Mrs Fawehinmi. "It took a team of police to arrest him."

Coleby, of Victoria Street, Littleport, told police he had picked up the boat from the near the Black Horse pub at Littleport, planning to go fishing.

He told the court: "When police shouted at me to stop I panicked, I turned the boat around, and then saw the helicopter." He then moored the boat, and waded across a drainage ditch to be arrested by police. Coleby denied knowing or suspecting that the boat was stolen.

Finding Coleby not guilty, presiding magistrate Dr Christine Shaw said: "We feel the condition of the boat would not have given rise to a suspicion it was stolen. We do not think it is plausible that he would have taken the boat in the middle of the day if he suspected it was stolen.

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