Over 20 months jail after ‘bizarre’ Moray harbour getaway

Yacht was stolen from Portknockie Harbour
Yacht was stolen from Portknockie Harbour

A MAN STOLE a yacht from a Moray harbour as he feared police were closing in on him – and ended up stranded for three days on the Moray Firth.

When Cathal Mathew was eventually returned to dry land he was soon arrested – and will now be stranded for another 19-months as he begins a jail sentence for his ‘bizarre’ crimes.

Elgin Sheriff Court heard that the drama began when the 28-year-old from Huntly inquired about buying an Audi S5 in a private sale in Aberdeenshire. He was allowed to ‘test drive’ the vehicle unsupervised – and stole it.

Later the hapless car thief panicked when he learned that police were looking for him in his home town, and fled in the car before landing up in Portknockie, where he was spotted by drinkers in the Seafield Inn parking the car at around 10.30pm and walking away.

What happened next was one of the strangest getaway’s police have had to deal with – Mathew stole a yacht from the harbour, the Trade Winds belonging to Buckie man Ewan Paterson. Remarkably, despite having no sailing experience Mathew managed to sail the boat into the Moray Firth and headed off in the general direction of Caithness.

However, by 8pm the following day and in a panic, he released a flare which was spotted by an oil standby vessel 35 miles east of Wick. Fiscal Kevin Corrins told the court that the crew spotted his signal and shone a light on the yacht, spotting the accused waving frantically.

After being plucked from the yacht Mathew then spent 48 hours with his rescuers before another passing ship picked him up and took him back to shore at Fraserburgh – where he was arrested.

The 24-foot yacht meanwhile had drifted, before crashing into rocks off a small island near Orkney, suffering extensive damage that would cost around £9000 to repair.

Speaking on behalf of the accused, solicitor Robert Cruickshank admitted his clients behaviour “was bizarre, and he harbours shame and remorse for what he did”.

Noting that Mathew had a significant number of previous convictions, Sheriff Chris Dickson jailed him for 19months and 20days.