THEY hoped to spend months of the year sailing around some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

Visits were planned to Scotland and Ireland, and couple Christine Lloyd and David Diplock were looking forward to a tranquil life on the sea.

But now the pair’s retirement dreams are in tatters, after they were duped into spending nearly £250,000 of their pension fund on a yacht they cannot sail.

The couple ordered a boat in 2009 from Hamblebased A-Board Yachts Ltd, which is now in liquidation.

During the following months, company salesman Shane Rowe produced fake documents to convince Mr Diplock to carry on giving staged payments for the boat, which was being built in Poland.

As the construction was beset by delays, Rowe even forged the signature of fellow company director John Board on documentation to stop the couple from pulling out of the contract, Southampton Crown Court heard.

When they eventually received the boat, Southampton Crown Court was told that the boat was “not to the specification requested” and was “unsailable”.

The court heard that Rowe, 38, from Hatchett Close, Fordingbridge , had a 49 per cent shareholder stake in A-Board Yachts and was responsible for its day to day running.

Along with pleading guilty to forging documents he gave to Mr Diplock, Rowe also admitted fraudulently using Mr Board’s personal credit card details to make a payment of £1,190.92 and amending a building certificate issued about a boat sold to a foreign customer so it would appear to come within Italian regulations.

In mitigation, defence barrister Christopher Stopa told the court that Rowe had committed fraud to try and save the company, which was in serious financial difficulties.

He argued that Rowe was not responsible for the manufacturing problems of Mr Diplock’s boat and did not gain financially from what he had done.

But the judge, Mr Recorder Michael Parroy QC, said that Rowe stood to benefit indirectly from his deception.

Sentencing him to 21 months in prison, he said: “The fact that your company was in financial difficulties cannot justify what you did.

“The charges relating to Mr Diplock represent a significant, a deliberate and a continued policy of dishonesty, which have had a serious effect financially and otherwise for Mr Diplock.”