You can run, but you can't hide. This is what two suspected criminals discovered when they were found by a police dog crammed into a plastic container at a garden centre near Crowborough.
The pair were found lying top and tail within the storage unit – measuring approximately 2m x 60cm x 60cm – at Sussex Country Gardener in Tunbridge Wells Road, Mark Cross.
The search followed the theft of a car from an address in Pevensey Road, Polegate, which was subsequently crashed and abandoned at the site, about 20 miles away, shortly after 1am on Thursday (22 September).
Police Dog Spud, a six-year-old German Shepherd, led his handler PC Steph Barrett, of the Surrey and Sussex Police Dog Unit, from the scene of the wrecked black Vauxhall Signum through the grounds of the garden centre and into the kitchen, where he indicated that he had located someone by barking at the plastic container.
PC Barrett lifted the lid on the unit – used to store chair cushions – and the two suspects were arrested.
This was after her colleague Sergeant Jim Smith, of the Uckfield Neighbourhood Response Team, had responded to a report of a collision at the garden centre, having earlier pursued the stolen vehicle and lost sight of it due to its excessive speed.
PC Barrett explained, "Sgt Smith arrived at the garden centre first and stated that the stolen vehicle had crashed quite spectacularly down an embankment and through the metal garden centre fencing. He believed the suspects may be somewhere in the grounds, as prior to my arrival he had heard banging and voices.
"I deployed Spud and approached the vehicle with caution. I let him sniff inside, as at that point we could not confirm if there was anyone still in it or trapped. Spud indicated to me that someone had been here but that there was no one still within the vehicle.
"Spud tracked to the side of the garden centre where we found a door which was insecure. This led into a kitchen area and restaurant. Sgt Smith followed me at a safe distance.
"I shouted a warning to inform the suspects of my intention to release the dog, and what they should do if the dog was to find them.
"We searched various buildings on the site and, as we came into an area of decking outside the café, I noticed Spud's demeanour change. This indicated to me that he may be onto a scent. He worked his way back towards the restaurant and he started to bark at a plastic ottoman type container, no bigger than a couple of metres in length, and less than a metre in height and width.
"I called for Sgt Smith to join me and I secured Spud on the lead. I again issued a warning before I lifted the lid to the container, at which point I saw two men lying top and tail crammed into the container. I shone a torch over them and saw that they both had blood on their faces. I told them to stay where they were, and when a couple of other officers joined us they were called out of the container and arrested.
"Once the men were secure, I put Spud back in my vehicle and I stood down from the scene.”
Sgt Smith said, "The arrests of these two men followed a police pursuit in which the stolen vehicle was seen to make off at high speed. This sort of behaviour will not be tolerated on the roads of Wealden – or anywhere else in Sussex for that matter – and anyone who thinks they can take the law into their own hands will be dealt with accordingly.”
A 21-year-old man from Eastbourne, arrested on suspicion of burglary, taking a motor vehicle without consent, failing to provide a specimen for analysis and dangerous driving, has been bailed until 9 November pending further enquiries.
A 28-year-old man from Eastbourne, arrested on suspicion of burglary, conspiring to take a motor vehicle without consent and dangerous driving, has also been bailed until 9 November pending further enquiries.