A man with a lifetime driving ban helped himself to vehicles to travel around the Highlands following a row with his girlfriend.
Andrew Ridsdale, 48, first targeted a vehicle parked outside the home of a good Samaritan in Lochaline on the west coast.
He was returning an empty flask they had used to make him tea after hearing he was sleeping rough.
He drove that vehicle as far as Drumnadrochit, by Loch Ness, where he abandoned it in a restaurant car park.
Two days later he targeted a woman’s home in Tongue while she was in bed, taking her handbag containing car keys from a worktop and then making off with her van, which was later found in a supermarket car park in Thurso.
Ridsdale appeared by videolink from custody at Tain Sheriff Court to plead guilty to one charge of stealing a vehicle, one of taking a vehicle without consent and one of theft of the handbag and contents.
He also admitted driving whilst disqualified, otherwise than in accordance with a licence and without insurance.
Fiscal depute Pauline Gair told the court that on October 14 the first vehicle “was outside a property unlocked with the key in the glove box”.
She said: “The accused had been seen in the area earlier and a local had made him a flask of tea because he had indicated he was going to be sleeping in an unmanned launderette.
Flask returned and car taken
“At 6am the empty flask was returned to the person who made the tea, when he looked outside at 7am the vehicle had gone. It was found later outside a restaurant in Drumnadrochit.”
Describing the circumstances of the vehicle theft in Tongue on October 16, Mrs Gair continued: “The accused had worked his way north and was seen by locals looking for a bed and breakfast.
“One lady had gone to bed leaving her light on and her front and back doors unlocked and her handbag on the kitchen worktop.
“She heard a noise. When she went downstairs her handbag wasn’t on the worktop and her Volkswagen Caddy van was gone.
“It was later found outside a supermarket in Thurso, having been driven there by the accused.”
The court hear that Ridsdale, of Brentwood Gardens, Bradford, was subject to a lifetime driving ban and therefore not covered by insurance.
Solicitor Rory Gowans, for Ridsdale, told the court that his client had fallen on hard times after coming to Scotland on a whim following an argument with his girlfriend.
Mr Gowans told the court: “He had fallen out with his partner and seems to have headed north with no particular plan or where or what he was going to do.
Car thief ‘ran out of money’
“He ran out of money. That seems to have been the precursor to him deciding to use other mean of getting around Scotland,” said Mr Gowans, adding: “He had no money and was moving around by using and taking other people’s property.”
The court heard that former Premier League football club steward Ridsdale, who now runs an online business with his partner, had returned to England after making up with her.
He had then been contacted by police in relation to the thefts and had returned voluntarily to face the consequences.
Sheriff Gary Aitken told Ridsdale his “brazen repeated offences” had attracted an “inevitable custodial sentence” and that the maximum sentences were merited – albeit with credit for his guilty plea.
He said: “Goodness only knows what was going through your mind. Someone with your record should never, ever, ever get behind the wheel of a vehicle under any circumstances.”
He sentenced Ridsdale to a total of nine months imprisonment and twice re-imposed his lifetime driving ban.