The work of a police dog has led to the conviction of three men who stole a large number of gas canisters from a caravan park, according to Sussex Police.
Police said officers were called to The Willows, in Lidsey Road, Woodgate, at around 2am on October 1 after it was reported that three people were loading the items into a white Ford Transit van.
A spokesman said: “The registration number was provided by the informant, who advised the vehicle had then made off towards Bognor Regis. It was spotted by local officers less than 10 minutes later and pursued onto the North Bersted Bypass towards Felpham.
“After a short distance, the van pulled over near a pathway and all three occupants ran into an unlit area away from the path. Officers gave chase on foot and detained one suspect after he slipped on a manhole cover, however the other two suspects remained outstanding.”
PC Anthony Oliver, of the Sussex Police Dog Unit, was requested to assist, and he arrived at the scene at around 2.30am. He deployed police dog Goose, a German Shepherd general purpose dog, and ‘after 15 minutes of tracking’ he located a second suspect hiding in bushes.
The third suspect was found by Goose hiding in deeper vegetation a short time later, police revealed.
The spokesman continued: “The trio were identified as Billy Love, 20, unemployed, of Eastbourne Road, Blindley Heath, Surrey; Charles Wakeford, 22, a scaffolder, of no fixed address; and Robert Giles, 20, unemployed, of Lingfield Common Road, Lingfield, Surrey.
“Following his arrest, Wakeford asked officers: ‘Did the dog really track us from where we ran from the van?’
Police confirmed all three men were arrested, and charged with the theft of 22 full gas bottles and six empty gas bottles, with a total value of approximately £1,419, all of which were recovered.
“They pleaded guilty at Worthing Magistrates’ Court on October 29 and were each given a 12-month community order, requiring them to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work,” the spokesman said.
“They were also ordered to pay £50 costs and a £90 victim surcharge.”
PC Oliver said the case ‘should serve as a reminder to people that you can run, but you can’t hide’.
He added: “And when it comes to tracking a suspect, there is no better piece of equipment than a trained police dog’s nose.”
PC Jordan Holmes, of the Chichester Investigations Team, added: “This was a great example of officers from different divisions working together to tackle crime, and to keep our community safe.”