Bonnybridge van thief evaded police ... until he called himself a taxi

An offender pinched a work’s van and led police on a dangerous chase, losing them when he made off on foot into the wilds, only to have officers there waiting when he called for a taxi to pick him up.

Saturday, 20th March 2021, 11:18 am

Daniel McKenzie (24) appeared from custody via video link at Falkirk Sheriff Court on Thursday having pleaded guilty to stealing a van from Campbell Scrap Yard, Bonnyside Road, Bonnybridge, dangerous driving on Callendar Road, Old Redding Road, New Hallglen Road and Lionthorn Road on December 7, 2019.

He also admitted breaching his curfew to stay in his 105 Gilmarton Dykes Drive, Edinburgh, between 9pm and 7am.

McKenzie told officers he would have made his curfew if he had been able to drive back home to Edinburgh in plenty of time, instead of having to evade them and run into the fields.

McKenzie appeared from custody via video link at Falkirk Sheriff Court on Thursday to answer for his vehicle theft and dangerous driving crimes

Procurator fiscal depute Katie Cunningham told the court McKenzie and an accomplice pulled up outside the business in Bonnybridge in a van of their own at around 5.30pm.

The keys of the work’s Renault van were still in the ignition and McKenzie seized his opportunity.

However, the owner of the van sped off after him in hot pursuit – relaying details of the chase and a description of McKenzie to a police operator as he drove.

"The owner saw the accused drive off,” she added. “He drove off after him and provided a running commentary to police as to the direction of travel. He managed to catch up with the van while it was still in the Bonnybridge area.

"He got out of his car and ran up to the stolen vehicle, which had temporarily stopped. He was banging on the window, demanding the accused get out. The accused replied ‘What is it?’ before driving off towards Falkirk.

"The owner set off in pursuit, again giving a running commentary to the police call handler and providing a description of the accused.”

Police spotted the stolen van in Falkirk and then took up the chase.

The procurator fiscal depute said: “It failed to stop and started to drive away at speed, weaving in and out traffic on the opposite side of the carriageway. The accused was mounting kerbs and overtaking vehicles to evade police.”

Once he made it into a rural area, McKenzie then stopped the van and ran off into a field. Due to “poor weather” and “lack of light” he was able to escape police.

Having lost his pursuers, McKenzie made his way to a house in the area.

"He said he had crashed his vehicle,” said the procurator fiscal depute. “The resident allowed him to contact a taxi.”

Police became aware of this information and stopped the taxi after it had picked up McKenzie, who was soaking wet with muddy clothing.

The court heard McKenzie had a record of housebreaking and was an “affable young man”, with most of his crimes committed under cover of darkness.

Sheriff Richard MacFarlane sentenced to 425 days in prison and banned him from driving for 12 months.