Canal boat thief leads police on 4mph chase as officers say 13-mile chase was a ‘police first’

Mr Tomlinson contacted the Canal and River Trust, whose volunteers man the Watford Locks on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal, to alert them that his stolen boat was headed their way.

Meanwhile, Leicestershire Police visited the marina, where they were shown the relevant photographs and equipped with the information they needed to apprehend the vessel.

The message, and photographs of Elusive No.1, were also widely circulated amongst members of the canal boat community. Those who spotted it quickly realised the name and registration number had been crudely painted over at the back.

Officers duly caught up with the stolen boat. They called Mr Tomlinson to confirm the description before the suspect “surrendered on sight”, they said.

The force posted on social media: “In a career first and following a 13 mile ‘follow’ we completed a hard stop on a stolen canal boat.”

Chief Constable Simon Cole wrote on Twitter: “Well, they say that you never know what to expect. In a landlocked force we have pursued a barge. One in custody.”

Mr Tomlinson revealed that, by chance, one of the officers knew how to drive a boat and had been able to guide it along the final stretch of canal to the nearest lock.

“All credit to the police,” he said. “But it’s also testament to the camaraderie amongst the canal boat community.

“Everyone knows everyone on the canals and the people are so friendly. It’s such a diverse community – people who have taken to the boats because they have nowhere else to live and others who have spent hundreds of thousands on a boat as a luxury.

“The jungle drums were out and people went out of their way to spot my boat and help get it back.”

Mr Tomlinson said the vessel, which he lives on part of the week for work, had some damage from being “bashed” and its name had been painted over.

He also found an empty beer bottle in his bed and a vodka bottle in the sink, leaving him feeling “violated” in a way similar to that when a house has been burgled.

Leicestershire Police confirmed that Ian Silman, 46, from Blackpool had been charged 

with the theft of a narrowboat in Lutterworth. He is also charged with taking a conveyance without consent and causing criminal damage to the boat.

He is due to appear at Leicester Magistrates Court on November 27.

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