A REPOSSESSION agent who stole a £150,000 yacht from a Hampshire boatyard and sailed to Southampton where it was taken out of the water has been jailed for 30 months.

Serial offender Mark Richards, 44, took Kaprina 11 from its Swanwick mooring in fading light and against the tide - and within minutes he had crashed into another yacht.

It was the last anyone saw of the eight-berth, 43-footer until it was discovered at a boatyard in Woolston days later after it had been taken out of the water by crane.

The yacht belonged to Berkshire farmer Richard Astor and his wife, Katherine.

Southampton Crown Court heard that Richards had been seen to board Kaprina 11 on three occasions and had planned to offer £25,000 to buy her, although he had been told by other owners at the boatyard it was not for sale.

On arrest, he claimed he had bought the boat from Mr Astor and tried to support his story with documentation. But the court heard he had never met Mr Astor and had forged documents.

Richards, of North East Road, Sholing, had been convicted at an earlier hearing of theft.

In mitigation, Charles Thomas said the boat had been quickly recovered after being taken.

References indicated Richards was a committed family man and may have been motivated by financial pressures.

Mr Thomas said: "This is a strange case. It is hard for anyone to envisage how anyone thinking clearly could possibly have thought they would get away with it."

Passing sentence, Judge Christopher Leigh QC told Richards, who had 22 previous convictions for offences of dishonesty: "You have shown a complete lack of remorse. Once it became apparent the boat had been taken, you forged receipts and a letter to support your lying story you had bought it.

"There is absolutely no alternative to imprisonment."