Thierry Joubat, 21, had already been in custody on remand for nearly eight months, but was rearrested to face an extradition hearing in London. He is wanted by the French authorities for absconding last May while serving a sentence there.
At Truro Crown Court, Cornwall, Joubat admitted taking the pounds 75,000 luxury yacht Noah's Jest last May, and breaking into a sports club in Essex the following month. He asked for 44 other offences to be considered - including taking six other boats, breaking into a string of yachts, and stealing food, clothing and equipment. The judge ordered verdicts of not guilty to be recorded on two other charges of taking yachts, after being told they had been dealt with in France. Martin Meeke, for the prosecution, said Joubat had told police: 'I eat the food, the clothes I wear; when they are dirty I throw them away and change.' But Mr Meeke added: 'It seems from the papers that although he has a fascination with yachts, he doesn't care for them as the owners might'. Melissa Barlow, for the defence, said she could offer little in mitigation other than that Joubat had made 'brutally frank' admissions to his crimes.
Thierry Joubat was born in Venissieux, near Lyons, in March 1971. His parents split up and he was shunted around children's homes. At 16 he got a place on a sailing ship run by a religious order. He travelled down the coast of Africa then crossed the Atlantic to Brazil and Guyana. He was hooked. He read books on navigation and learnt chart-reading and how to handle a vessel. On his return he left the order's care.
From 1989 to last June, between prison terms in France, he commuted between Brittany and Cornwall in pilfered yachts until, attempting his first break-in on land, he was caught at the Ford Sports and Social Club in Romford, Essex. He left signed logbooks in boats and letters detailing his plans. But he slipped in unnoticed among the West Country leisure sailors and survived by stealing food, clothing and charts.
In 1990 he visited twice. In the log of the Breton craft Cormorane, dumped in April, he detailed plans to head for Quebec. By the time he took the pounds 70,000 yacht Temeraire from the river Yealm in Devon, he changed his itinerary. Police found a letter giving plans to go to the United States. 'I shall take the American way of life, become honest and respect people and their laws; quite simply, become American. At one with God . . . praise to Allah.' He failed. The Temeraire was found abandoned with its keel damaged off the French coast near Nantes. He failed again in September, when the pounds 90,000 Salaman dar, taken from the Helford river, hit rocks off Vivero, Spain. Most of 1991 was spent in court or prison in France. In November he was jailed for removing 10 yachts in Brittany and England, including the Temeraire and the Salamandar.
In May last year he went on the run while on home release. Within days, a yacht stolen in France was at anchor in the Helford; shortly after, the pounds 100,000 Noah's Jest vanished from near Falmouth. He dumped it at Lulworth Cove, Dorset, after shaving his head, leaving a mane of hair spilling across the cabin. At Lymington, Hampshire, he took a pounds 20,000 yacht to hop round into the Thames estuary, and his luck ran out in Romford.
He told police he began taking the yachts for the pleasure of sailing them, but it became a way of life. An officer called him 'a Walter Mitty kid on a big adventure'.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content