The man fled from the St Vincent Leisure Club in Gosport, Hampshire, early on Thursday as police arrived after reports of a break-in.
Officers chased the shadowy figure until he dived headlong into a creek leading out into the sea. They managed to keep him in their sights for 20 minutes as he struggled in the chilly water but then he disappeared. A Ministry of Defence launch joined the search, but there was no trace of him.
A police spokesman said yesterday: 'There is a slim chance that he got safely to shore. But because of sub-zero temperatures the water would have been very cold. And after spending that length of time in the water it is more likely that he was overcome by the cold.'Reuse content