Helicopter tracks stolen caravan

A DRIVER towing a stolen caravan through Doncaster gave himself up when he realised the South Yorkshire Police helicopter was tracking his every move.

Tony Nettleton pulled over into a layby and waited for a motor patrol to arrest him, Doncaster Crown Court was told.

The 43-year-old pleaded guilty to a charge of handling the stolen caravan but the court accepted he did not steal it from outside a house in Adwick-upon-Dearne last summer.

Prosecutor Neil Coxon said a Ford Transit stolen in Darlington, Co Durham, while the driver was collecting charity bags a fortnight earlier, was fitted with false number plates before being used to tow the caravan away from the drive of Michelle Love-Edwards' home in Crow Tree Lane.

She and her father were in the house when they looked out of the window and saw a man coupling it up to a Transit van.

The vehicle pulled away without them being able to stop it, said Mr Coxon, but the police were told and the force helicopter was called in because it was not far away from Adwick-on-Dearne.

The helicopter pilot followed the white van and caravan for approximately seven miles before it came to a stop on a lay-by on York Road and the van driver got out and waited for a police car to arrive and he was arrested.

Nettleton, of no fixed address, "took the pragmatic decision that he was unlikely to get away with the helicopter following him all the way", said Mr Coxon.

He told police he had been paid 50 to drive the van and was taking the caravan to Balby where he expected to meet two men in a bookies to receive the money.

Ms Love-Edwards, who was pregnant at the time of the offence, said the upset had put her health at risk and she was scared that people had been watching her home address.

The court was told Nettleton had 33 previous convictions for burglary, theft and handling stolen goods.

The judge, Recorder Tom Bayliss, QC, said he had been "duped" into assisting in the theft and sentenced him to a 12 months' community order with a drug rehabilitation condition.

Nettleton also admitted driving while disqualified and was banned for a further year.

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