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Dartmouth 'pirate' woman jailed for stealing ferry while drunk, high on nightshade

By Rob Cypher, Sep 20, 2012 | Updated: Oct 29, 2012 | | |
  1. Rob Cypher

    A DRUNKEN woman stole a passenger ferry on the River Dart and shouted 'I'm Jack Sparrow' and 'I'm a pirate' as she drifted away from police on the shore, a court has been told.

    Alison Whelan, 51, had been on a two-day bender drinking Lambrini and eating hallucinogenic plants when she sought late-night shelter with a companion on the Dart Princess Passenger Ferry. When police arrived to speak to her she unmoored the 45ft vessel from the Kingswear pontoon and set off up the river.

    Magistrates didn't see the funny side of her hour-long drunken escapade — which left several boats damaged and involved 30 members of the emergency services landing the tax payer with a hefty bill — as Whelan was sent to jail.

    The court in Torquay was told that Whelan and her friend Tristam Locke could be heard laughing and shouting from the deck 'what are you going to do now?' and 'I believe this is out of your jurisdiction' as they breezed away.

    They carried on screaming abuse as the vessel trundled up the Dart bumping into other boats 'like a pinball machine', oblivious to the damage they were causing.

    Whelan, formerly of Oxford Street, Dartmouth and now of Totnes Road, Paignton, was sent to jail for 112 days after being found guilty of aggravated vehicle taking.

    The incident happened in the early hours of September 10 last year when paramedics were called to the boat by Whelan who feared she was having a seizure.

    When they got there they found the defendant 'rambling' and obviously drunk while Locke became abusive and pushed one of the medics over.

    Ambulance technician Peter Jordan said he and his colleague waited in their vehicle a few yards away from the ferry for police to arrive.

    As they watched through the wing mirror the ferry started to move.

    "We saw it drifting down the estuary," Mr Jordan said.

    "I heard a female voice saying they were pirates and asking what are we going to do now?"

    When police arrived they asked where the suspects were to be told they were 200 yards away and heading towards dozens of other moored vessels.

    Whelan later told police she untied two or three of the ropes connecting the boat to the shore because she kept tripping over them.

    She said before she knew it she felt the boat moving and 'noticed the hotels getting a long way away'.

    Police joined lifeboat crew on the river trying to intercept the boat. The harbour master was also alerted.

    But the errant suspects shouted abuse from the out-of-control boat and made jokes about being kidnapped, the court was told.

    Police watched as the vessel span into a £70,000 fibreglass catamaran called Force Majeure causing £300 of damage and a moored vessel called Tomcat.

    It finally came to rest in still water about a mile or so upstream.

    When arrested Whelan said they would have ended up in St Tropez if they hadn't been caught.

    She admitted that she and Locke had been on a drinking spree around Torbay and she had consumed deadly nightshade, which is poisonous and caused her to hallucinate.

    She admitted she could get a 'bit cocky' when drunk but said she panicked when she saw the police.

    Kenneth Lane, who owns the ferry, said he had moored the boat securely with seven ropes an hour or so before it was taken. It was not seriously damaged.

    Magistrates had to decide whether Whelan, a chronic alcoholic who is awaiting a liver transplant, unhitched all the ropes knowing she would float away.

    She denied the charge but magistrates found her guilty and she was also in breach of a four-month suspended sentence.

    PC Clare Pearson, who investigated the incident said after the hearing: "This lady put the police, ambulance and coastguard to an awful lot of trouble. The amount of people called out to recover the boat and the damage caused to other vessels made it quite an expensive night."

    Tristam Locke, of High Street, Crediton, was fined £100 at a separate court case last year after admitting assaulting an ambulance technician by beating.



  1. Thegamblah
    Re: Dartmouth ferry 'pirate' woman jailed for acting

    I just read about this and came to the forum to see if anyone had posted about it yet.

    It seems kind of odd to me that news sources keep describing this as a "drunken escapade" when I would have to imagine that the Deadly Nightshade is really at the root of her behavior. As soon as I read that she ingested "hallucinogenic plants" Datura was the first thing to come to mind, so I'm not surprised that a deliriant was involved.

    At least no one is blaming bath salts this time around.
  2. Baba Blacksheep
    Re: Dartmouth ferry 'pirate' woman jailed for acting

    Pretty sure the two day piss-up didn't help either. Poor thing looks like she has been through a few bushes too. Those nightshades are called deadly for good reason. Diminished responsibility for sure.
  3. godztear
    Re: Dartmouth 'pirate' woman jailed for stealing ferry while drunk, high on nightshad

    I was unaware of the fact that you can drink yourself to near-death in the UK and then be supplied with fresh organs to ruin. As I was told by a surgeon, here in the US you have to be alcohol free for at least a year before even being considered for liver transplant.
  4. psyche
    Re: Dartmouth 'pirate' woman jailed for stealing ferry while drunk, high on nightshad

    Wouldn't that mean that the majority of the patients would need to wait a year for a transplant, and wouldn't it be deadly for many of the patients? Or is there an intake limit? How would the consumption of alcohol be tested beyond doubt?
  5. runnerupbeautyqueen
    Re: Dartmouth 'pirate' woman jailed for stealing ferry while drunk, high on nightshad

    My doctor told me the same thing. I have hepatitis and I was told that I would have to be clean for a year before I would even be considered for a liver transplant and even then it would be very unlikely that I would get one as long as there were other people who didn't have a history or drug or alcohol problems who need one.

    His words were "no one is going to give you a liver just so you can destroy it like you did your own."
  6. storkfmny
    Re: Dartmouth 'pirate' woman jailed for stealing ferry while drunk, high on nightshad

    I was told in '06' that my liver was shot (from tylenol and drinking) and had two years to live. They asked me if I wanted to be on the transplant list and I told them no and went home and started healing meditations. In 2010 I was told my liver was functioning normally.
    As far as this woman is concerned, she looks to be more like 70 from years of abuse. Time to give up the party lifestyle.
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