Wheelbarrow blagger cuffed after 2mph pursuit

Poor choice of getaway vehicle

A Devon criminal mastermind has been given a two-year community supervision order after pleading guilty to a burglary during which he attempted to make good his escape with a wheelbarrow - only to be cuffed after a two-hour, 2mph dash for freedom with his victim in low-speed pursuit.

Dairy farmer Chris Lees was out milking his cows in Nadderwater when, as he told the Times: "My neighbour ran over to me and told me that someone was in my house. I ran 200 yards back from the parlour and I saw that the front door had been smashed open.

"There was glass all over the floor and the door was wrecked. My two children had locked themselves in the bathroom upstairs because they thought the man was still inside... He must be the stupidest villain ever."

Stupid, yes, because 23-year-old Jethro Smith had scarpered with the booty in a wheelbarrow, hoping to hot foot it to Exeter in the pouring rain. Lees and his teenage kids piled into the car and, three miles up the road, found Smith and his getaway vehicle "loaded with Mr Lees's belongings".

Before Lees could confront the ambulatory blagger, Smith asked for a lift to Exeter. Naturally reluctant to offer assistance, Lees then decided to call in local law enforcement, following Smith from a safe distance.

The cops, however, told Lees they could not attend for "some time" and didn't actually arrive for another two hours, by which time Smith had managed to cover a further five miles. Lees said: "I rang them half a dozen times as we were following him down the road. The police told us to keep following him at a distance and promised that someone would come out and help, but two hours passed before anyone came."

A Devon and Cornwall Constabulary spokesman explained: "We were not told that the incident involved a burglary. We actually had reports of a male acting suspiciously with a wheelbarrow outside a domestic property.

"The local officers were unable to attend immediately because they were involved in a serious case elsewhere. We then received another call saying that a door had been broken down and we dispatched a unit to the address to deal with the incident."

The spokesman also confirmed that the force's chopper was grounded due to the bad weather. A pity, because the helicam footage would surely have made a terrific The World's Wildest Wheelbarrow Pursuit - Ever! TV special. ®

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