A RETIRED Army officer somersaulted into the boot of a moving car before capturing the driver of the stolen vehicle.
Keith Lovegrove put his training to the test as he leapt into the back after he was dragged behind his car as it was driven off by a drug addict.
Mr Lovegrove, 54, of Woolston, Warrington, used the impetus of the vehicle running over a speed bump to bounce into the boot.
He then scrambled through the back seat to the front of the vehicle, put opportunist thief Steven Gorvett in a headlock and forced him to stop.
His actions were more astounding because Mr Lovegrove is registered disabled having injured his back in an accident five years ago.
Mr Lovegrove had been mending a friend's fence in Dalton Bank, Warrington, on November 6 last year when the drama unfolded.
His Honda Civic was parked at the kerbside with its boot open and the keys in the ignition so he could listen to the radio as he worked.
Mark Roberts, prosecuting, told Warrington Crown Court how Gorvett jumped into the driver's seat to steal the car, but Mr Lovegrove gave chase. He grabbed the bumper and was dragged for 200 metres along the road which ripped holes in his shoes and clothing.
Speaking after the trial yesterday, , Mr Lovegrove said: "As he drove over the speed bump the momentum made me somersault into the car so I was ready to grab him.
"Because of my intensive training in the forces, it was just automatic.
"I wouldn't have been able to do it without the epidural injection I have had in my spine. Without that I wouldn't have even been there that day. "
The court heard that as the car stopped Gorvett said: "I'm sorry - I didn't think you could get in through the back."
Both men got out of the car but Gorvett then punched Mr Lovegrove in the face and ran off.
During the incident the car narrowly missed a little girl who was trying to cross the road with a lollipop lady.
Gorvett, 24, of Watkin Street, Warrington, was yesterday jailed for 18 months, and banned from driving for four years after admitting aggravated vehicle taking, dangerous driving, assault, and theft.
As he sentenced Gorvett, Judge Elystan Morgan said: "This was an act of great bravery and incredible acrobatic skills. He managed, somehow, to claw his way into the boot of the car and then into the car itself."
The court was told earlier Gorvett stole CDs worth nearly £400 and disco equipment while at a party.
On another occasion he was caught stealing two bottles of whisky from a supermarket after a chase during which his tracksuit bottoms fell down to reveal a bottle of whisky which smashed.
Michael Davies, defending, said his client had been a drug user since the age of 14 and had attempted suicide on numerous occasions.
He used drugs to block out depression and at the time of the car incident he was under the influence of drugs and drink.
Mr Lovegrove required hospital treatment for shock and serious injuries to his feet and leg. He still suffered pain in his right shoulder where the muscles were torn. "Every time I move my arm it reminds me he didn't get away, " he said.