AN UP-AND-COMING footballer took a boat, dumped it when he got stuck on a river bed and then led police on an hour-long chase around Mid Cheshire, a court was told.
At one point, the boat owner's son gave chase as Graham Smith made off at about four knots and, after he had run aground, the Cheshire Constabulary police plane had to be called in to track down the 24-year-old as he fled on foot.
Smith, who lives in Runcorn, pleaded guilty at Northwich Magistrates Court on Thursday to a charge of unlawfully taking the £7,000 boat. He also admitted two further charges of failing to surrender to the court in October and December last year.
Caroline Viviani, prosecuting, told the court that the boat owner's son was in the back garden of his Crowton home on August 1 when he heard a sound and went round to the front of the house where the boat was normally moored.
She said: 'The boat was not where it was supposed to be, but he could see it about 50 yards away with a male on board.
'He then started running along the riverside in parallel with the boat before the defendant got it stuck on the river bed.
'He asked the defendant what he was doing and the defendant replied that he was taking it out on a test run. He told him to stay where he was but the defendant jumped off the boat and started to run until he reached Dutton Locks. He lost sight of the defendant as he started running towards Acton Bridge.'
The boat's owner found out about the theft a short time later and began a search of the area. Ms Viviani said: 'At 12.30pm he saw the defendant in the village and said to him, 'we have caught you now', to which the defendant replied, 'I have done nothing' before running off. The father continued to follow the defendant across fields some distance behind him. By this time there were several police officers and the force plane in the area looking for him. The plane quickly tracked him and two officers arrested him at 12.55pm.'
Peter Green, defending, said: 'With regards to the failure to attend court charges, he has had problems in coming to court. He plays for Cheadle Town and has been trying to live independently in Manchester. He is worried about his future because he is about to be offered a professional contract.'
The chairman of the bench, Michael Melvin, told Smith: 'We are sending this matter to Runcorn Magistrates Court where you have another matter pending.'
He was ordered to live at his parents' address and report to Runcorn police station three times a week.