A THIEF who travelled to Dawlish to steal catalytic converters tried to outrun police at 85 mph with two flat tyres after he was caught red-handed by a car owner.


Felix Rooney carried on trying to escape despite two tyres being punctured by a police stinger device as he drove his BMW getaway car towards Exeter.


He mounted a pavement to try to avoid the stinger and went on to drive at high speed in unlit single track country lanes near Exminster. A teenaged accomplice tried to throw incriminating evidence out of the window at the same time.


The chase ended when he turned onto the lane leading past the Swan’s Nest and heads towards the Exeter Ship[ Canal and the Turf Locks Hotel. It is a dead end and he abandoned the car when he ran out of road.


He and passenger Daniel Doran were chased down by police on foot and officers then found three stolen catalytic converters, cutting gear and balaclavas in the car or on the road where they had been discarded.


The pair had cut out and stolen three catalytic converters from cars at Millin Way , Dawlish Warren but were disturbed as Rooney was cutting away a fourth. The exhaust systems were targeted because they contain metals which have high scrap value.


Gardener Rooney, aged 32, of Leicester Road, Market Harborough, and roofer Doran, aged 19, of Grove Lane, Hemingford Grey, Huntingdon both admitted four counts of theft. Rooney also admitted careless driving and driving without insurance.


Rooney was banned from driving for three months, ordered to do 140 hours unpaid work and 29 days of rehabilitation activities and Doran was conditionally discharged by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court.


He said the sentences reflected the fact that the men spent six and four weeks in custody respectively after their arrest and have been on tagged curfews for many weeks since. He ordered both men to pay £500 costs.


He said: “There was clearly sophisticated planning on Rooney’s part although Doran’s culpability was lower. It is hard to imagine an offence of careless driving that is more serious.”


Miss Felicity Payne, prosecuting, said the three successful thefts and the fourth, which was interrupted, all happened in the Dawlish area late at night on March 13, 2023.


They were caught when their fourth victim heard noise outside his home at 11.30 pm and went to investigate. Doran was acting as lookout and alerted Rooney, who drive off at speed.


The police tried to intercept him with a stinger device which he avoided partially by driving onto a pavement. He then carried on with two deflated tyres as speeds of 60 mph in a 30 mph zone and 85 mph on an unlit country road.


The pursuit lasted nine minutes and ended at the car park at the end of Station Road, Exminster. All four victims suffered financial loss either through bearing the cost of repair themselves or by paying insurance excesses. One was an 83-year-old widow who was unable to go out while her car was being made roadworthy.


Lawyers representing the two men said they had already suffered extensive punishment by being remanded in custody and put on tagged curfew since their arrests. Both have stayed out of trouble and are now working.


Doran’s barrister said he gone out to buy cannabis but ended up in a car which travelled to Devon. His only role in the thefts was to act as lookout.