A FUEL thief led police on a 90mph chase after a six-day crime spree ripping off petrol stations.
Other drivers had to take evasive action from Neil Pell as he drove recklessly during an afternoon pursuit.
Police spotted the 43-year-old driving a Peugeot on July 18 when he was wanted for making off without paying for more than £300 of fuel.
He had taken diesel from five different filling stations in the area between July 12 and 18 but never paid.
The details of his car and his picture were circulated among police.
But he was in no mood to give himself up when police saw him on the A179 Hart bypass at around 2pm, and he accelerated away at 70mph.
Harry Hadfield, prosecuting at Teesside Crown Court, said: “The officer put the blue lights and sirens on but the defendant failed to stop and headed towards the A19 and accelerated up to 90mph.
“He continued towards Wingate and Station Town, taking blind bends on country roads at 90mph.
“He caused another vehicle to swerve to avoid a collision.”
Pell drove at 50mph in a built up residential area of Station Town where there were pedestrians and mounted a footpath before driving over an area of green space.
He then drove straight towards a police van stationed in the middle of the road to try to stop him but swerved at the last moment.
Pell eventually abandoned the car, which had smoke coming from the engine, in Watson Crescent, Trimdon.
He was arrested after a short chase on foot.
Pell, of Dene View, Castle Eden, admitted five counts of making off without payment between July 12 and 18.
He also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and having no insurance.
Martin Scarborough, mitigating, said he stole the diesel to sell to pay off a drug debt as a result of a split with his long-term partner.
He said: “The problem he had with drugs over that short period which led to this spree of offending he has thankfully put behind him.
“He does to his credit take full responsibility.”
Judge Howard Crowson said Pell’s driving could have caused “catastrophic injury or worse”.
Jailing him for 15 months he said: “Clearly you decided you were going to try to get away with it.
“The driving was disgraceful, quite appalling, very high speeds and very dangerous.
“People were put at risk.”
Pell was also banned from driving for another three years.