North East Wales

Brian Ditchburn jailed for car theft at Wrexham church

A man who stole a worshipper's car from outside a church in Wrexham and then sparked a police chase has been jailed.

Brian Anthony Ditchburn, 28, of no fixed address, stole the car keys while attending a service at the community church.

He was caught after he crashed into a tree, hit a parked car, shot a red light at 70mph, then reversed into a police car, Mold Crown Court heard.

He was jailed for 18 months after admitting the offences.

Judge Philip Hughes said that it was an aggravating feature that Ditchburn had stolen the car keys from a church and then taken the car from outside.

The court heard how four people from the Ty Nos homeless shelter in Wrexham were invited to a Sunday morning service at the church in Price's Lane.

Afterwards they stayed for tea and biscuits but the car keys of one of the congregation were stolen and a VW Polo taken from the church car park.

Later police spotted two men in the stolen car in Bromborough, and there followed a dramatic police chase as the driver tried to get away.

Prosecutor Elizabeth Bell told the court a passenger in the car later told how he feared for his life.

Blind bend

The judge said the driving was aggravated by several features - Ditchburn made a handbrake turn, he had driven 20 mph over the speed limit, he overtook on a blind bend, he forced other drivers to take evasive action, he went around a roundabout the wrong way, he went through red traffic lights at 70 mph and he eventually struck a police vehicle that was trying to stop him.

"This was a bad piece of driving," he said.

Ditchburn, formerly of Princess Road in Ellesmere Port, admitted aggravated vehicle taking, dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and no insurance.

Katherine Jagger, defending, said Ditchburn had been homeless for a few weeks and was at the end of his tether.

The offences occurred because he wanted to travel to Ellesmere Port to see family, and took the car to do so.

But they rejected him and he panicked when he saw the police.

"He deeply regrets what he did," Miss Jagger explained. "He knows that he has done wrong and that he needs to be punished."

She said Ditchburn wanted to turn his life around and start afresh.

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