A ‘FENCE’ awaiting sentence for dishonestly handling a stolen boat and trailer fled to Spain - then posted gloating Facebook messages from his sunny hiding place, a court heard yesterday.
One of the messages from prolific criminal David Lee, 40, of Lechlade, on his Facebook page was "I'll be back in the winter to do my time, LOL," Gloucester crown court was told.
Another posting from Lee said: "I'm in Spain - Ha Ha ha."
His final message was "Love it, so much money!"
But police had the last laugh when Lee sailed back to Britain after two months away and was arrested as he got off the ferry.
Yesterday the justice he had tried so hard to avoid finally caught up with him after he pleaded guilty to jumping bail, dishonestly handling the stolen reed-cutting boat and trailer valued at £8-10,000, and breaching an earlier three months suspended sentence imposed last year for handling a stolen Range Rover.
Judge Jamie Tabor QC jailed Lee, of the Marina in Lechlade, for a total of 14 months.
"I have read a letter from you today," the judge told Lee. "You say you regret your actions and leaving the country was an act of desperation.
"But I can't accept that. You have spent your life flagrantly disobeying orders of the court. You have more failures to appear at court on your record than anyone else I have come across.
"You have an extraordinarily long and varied list of previous convictions. It is time you changed.
"You say you went off to Spain because you were stressed but the messages you sent suggest you were cocking a snook at the system."
The judge passed a three month sentence for breach of bail by going to Spain, three months consecutively for the breach of suspended sentence and another eight months for handling the boat and trailer.
Prosecutor Nick O'Brien said the boat and trailer, owned by Mark Savage, were taken from Milestone House in Fairford on June 1, last year.
The boat and trailer were in the garage there.
Mr O'Brien said the boat was a specialist reed cutting vessel which would cost £30,000 new.
Lee had denied he was the thief but he must have been 'extremely close' to the thief because he had taken photographs of it in the garage some weeks before it was stolen, said Mr O'Brien.
After the theft the owner made enquiries himself and they led to the boat and trailer being found in a gateway near Kemble, about 12 miles away.
Police suspected Lee and, with the help of his son, made a phone call to him. He told them he was out of the county.
Immediately after receiving that call Lee had deleted his photos of the boat from his phone but when he was later arrested the police were able to retrieve them.
Mr O'Brien told the court Lee had 66 convictions on a criminal record dating back to when he was 17.
Sabhia Pathan, defending, said: "He is adamant that he had nothing to do with the stealing of the boat at all.
"At the time of this offence he was effectively homeless when he and his partner were expecting a child. Their relationship deteriorated and he found himself homeless and went into a shelter."
But she said things were now going better for him and he was determined not to offend again.
After Judge Tabor had passed sentence on Lee, he replied: "You won't see me again."