MORE than £66,000 of metal was stolen from a Hereford factory before the culprits led police on a 32-mile high-speed chase, a court has heard.

The man behind the wheel, 43-year-old John Lee, was jailed for 18 months by a judge at Worcester Crown Court.

He reached speeds of 95mph in rural villages, evaded a stinger police used to try to deflate the tyres of his BMW, overtook a lorry on blind bend and jumped red lights in Hereford city centre, prosecuting barrister Sally Cairns told the court.

She said the chase started in Ledbury at around 1.45am on October 3, 2020, and eventually finished more than half an hour later near Leominster.

Judge Martin Jackson said Lee, of Scallows Lane, Romsley, Hampshire, had "no regard" for anyone as he hit speeds of 95mph in the 50mph zone in Monkland, near Leominster, and 86mph in Bartestree's 30mph zone.


Summing up, he said it was the longest police chase he'd ever heard of, with the car eventually being stopped by police after smashing through two farm gates off Ginhall Lane.

Mrs Cairns said the chase, on wet country roads, came after the theft of metal from Special Metals Wiggin in Hereford.

She told the court that a white lorry was seen parked up at the east gate in Old School Lane, and a neighbour called the police after hearing a loud crash.

He saw a forklift truck being driven around, and it was later found that the lorry was being loaded with pallets of zinc ingots from the factory's yard – the amount stolen totalled more than £66,000, she said.

The lorry and stolen metal was never recovered.

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Tom Buckley, 32, pleaded guilty to one count of theft, but Judge Martin Jackson was "just persuaded" to suspend his two-year prison sentence for two years.

He must also complete 40 rehabilitation activity requirement days and carry out 240 hours unpaid work. A proceeds of crime application would be heard at a later date, the judge said.

Buckley, who said he was from a "rough travelling family", needed the money to pay off debt, defence barrister Timothy Banks said.


Mr Banks said that when Buckley's mother died three years ago he had to borrow £4,000 to pay for her funeral.

He then struggled to pay it back, leading to his involvement in the theft.

But Buckley, who had 23 previous convictions, was not behind the plan, Mr Banks said.

While he had a "bad record" for theft, Mr Banks urged the judge not to send Buckley, of Gibson Way in Caterham, Surrey, back to prison as he was "petrified" of the thought.

Around two hours after the theft from Special Metals, a BMW thought to connected with the crime was spotted on the M50 near Ledbury, with the police chase starting in the town. Both men were in the car.

Dangerous driver Lee, who was banned from driving for two years and nine months, was trying to move away from offending, defence barrister Olivia Appleby said.

She said Lee, who had 23 convictions to his name, "accepts his driving was poor" and he could have stopped sooner.

Miss Appleby said Lee, who pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous driving, was "disappointed" with his behaviour and being sent to prison would be "devastating" for him and his young family.