Police criticised over response to River Yare boat theft after thieves escape

The stolen boat at Postwick. Photo: Andy Cullum, BA ranger

Police have been criticised for the force's response to a boat theft which may have allowed thieves to escape after ditching the vessel on a remote riverbank.

Firefighters launch a rescue boat on the River Yare from River Green, Thorpe St Andrew

The force has launched a review of its initial response to reports of suspicious behaviour at moorings near Bungalow Lane, Thorpe St Andrew, on Tuesday evening, which turned out to be the theft of a 33ft cruiser.

Boat theft drama - how it unfolded.

Andrew Banner, managing director of Freedom Cruisers in Bungalow Lane, was the first to phone the police shortly after 6pm.

A police spokesman said all patrol officers were told via their radios about the suspicious activity reported, and resources were immediately dispatched when the boat owner reported the theft at 6.48pm.

Police issued a statement but refused to answer any EDP questions on the case including what time they reached the scene and how they responded.

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Mr Banner said: 'It's a shambles. They just did not act fast enough. If they had come out earlier they would have caught them red-handed.

'If the police had acted with the swiftness which, as citizens, we would all like them to act, we would be looking at people in cells overnight.'

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And in a scene that could have come out of an Only Fools and Horses script, he said boat owner Simon Jenner was on the phone to police when he saw his beloved vessel, which he had only recently bought and not yet named, pass before his eyes.

Mr Banner said a senior police officer had apologised for their response.

It was not the first time the Jenner family have been hit by criminals on the River Yare.

In January 2010, Mr Jenner's father Trevor was left broken hearted after the 42ft cruiser he had spent eight years refurbishing sunk after being set on fire in a suspected arson attack.

Mr Jenner Sr said: 'If the police had been on the ball they could have caught them red handed and they would be in front of justices.'

The force also came under question after refusing to give out any information during the six-hour drama on Tuesday evening, despite the police helicopter above alerting thousands to the operation.

With 22,000 followers on Twitter, the police could have sent a warning to other river users about the six-ton boat, in the hands of criminals, sailing around the river in the dark with the lights turned off.

With local news websites, radio and TV reaching hundreds of thousands of people, they could have put out an immediate appeal, asking for vigilance that could help them catch the thieves before the trail went cold.

Instead, they waited until after midnight, six hours after the first 999 call came in, before saying a word about what was going on. Ironically the force then appealed for witnesses!.

No arrests have been made.

Broadland MP Keith Simpson said: 'I would normally expect the press to be warned, and a warning to be given out over a wide area, on the point of view that we need your help, and we have got a boat in someone's hands who could ram you.

'Hopefully the police will come forward with an explanation that either grants that they made some errors, and that happens, or sometimes that there are wider concerns and you may understand why there was a news blackout.'

A police spokesman said: 'Informing the public is always considered during policing operations but, in this specific case and while the operation was live, the safe recovery of the boat and search of the suspects was assessed as the priority.

'In this instance there was no identified risk to the public on an empty waterway.

'A release was subsequently provided to all local media and we are grateful for the coverage it has received.

'A review of the constabulary initial response to the incident is taking place and we have sought to keep the crime victim informed throughout.'

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