Police pursuit sees man try to swim across Goulburn River

Court: A man has been sentenced to time served in prison and a community corrections order following a shoplifting spree. Photo by Rodney Braithewaite

A man tried to swim across the Goulburn River to escape police after a shoplifting spree in Shepparton, a court has heard.

Cheyne Willoughby, 37, pleaded guilty at Shepparton Magistrates’ Court to nine charges including theft, burglary and committing an indictable offence while on bail.

Police prosecutor Leading Senior Constable Fiona Kennedy told the court Willoughby stole items from Shepparton stores Aldi, Cheap as Chips and Sportspower on November 22, 2021.

Leading Sen Constable Kennedy said police chased him through Monash Reserve and McGuire Reserve.

The court heard Willoughby threw his backpack containing the stolen items into bushland and tried to swim across the Goulburn River to get away from police, but became tired and needed assistance getting out.

He admitted to police he had been doing some shopping and “stole a few things”, and acknowledged he was on bail at the time.

Earlier in 2021, on separate occasions, he had stolen a mobile phone from a customer at Centrelink Shepparton and broken into a Mooroopna op shop, but didn’t take anything.

Lawyer Anthony Coote said Willoughby had a long history with drugs and was homeless at the time of the offences.

He said Willoughby had “dried out” during his time in custody and could see a way forward with re-engagment in therapeutic programs through a corrections order.

Magistrate Ian Watkins convicted and sentenced Willoughby to 37 days in prison, already served.

He also placed him on an 18-month community corrections order with 100 hours of unpaid community work, assessment and treatment for drug use and dependency, with time spent in programs counting towards the community work hours.