A PROMISING young footballer has been jailed after taking part in a raid at a tool store.

Rio Wilson-Heyes, who plays for Northern Premier League club Colne FC, was the getaway van's driver, which crashed into a taxi on St Peter's Way, Bolton, as it was being chased by police.

Via a Skype video conference call at Manchester Crown Court, 22-year-old Wilson-Heyes was sentenced to 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to burglary, aggravated vehicle taking, having no licence or insurance, failing to stop for police and breaching a previously imposed suspended prison sentence for cannabis dealing.

Joshua Bowker, defending, told the court that Wilson-Heyes is "plainly a talented footballer" but has been influenced by peers he should not have associated with.

Simon Barrett, prosecuting, told Judge Timothy Stead how the Toolstation store on Holloway Drive, Swinton, was targeted by a gang of three or four thieves just after 10pm on February 26.

They smashed their way into the back of the premises, removing bricks and damaging a fire door before stealing heavy tools, worth £8,500.

The tools were loaded into a transit van, which was on cloned plates and had been stolen a day earlier.

But as it left Toolstation it was spotted by police, who gave chase.

"The vehicle was driven dangerously from Swinton to Bolton , driving regularly at 70mph in 30mph speed limit zones," said Mr Barrett.

"It went through four red traffic lights and, on occasion, onto the opposite side of the carriageway, causing other road users to take avoiding action, including one of the officers involved in the pursuit."

The van headed through Worsley and Farnworth to Bolton, where it crashed on St Peter's Way.

"It struck a taxi, causing the vehicle to crash into the barrier," said Mr Barrett.

"The defendant decamped from the vehicle, as did the passenger and were pursued by the police and arrested."

Judge Stead was told that, at the time, Wilson-Heyes was subject to a suspended prison sentence, imposed in July last year, for cannabis dealing. He had been caught with 13 bags of the drug in a stolen vehicle.

Mr Bowker said Wilson-Heyes' attempt to escape from police had been a "foolish and rash reaction".

"The driving is a very poor example but there is no evidence, and it may be by good fortune rather than anything else, that anyone was hurt."

He added that in the week before the burglary it had been the funeral of Wilson-Heyes' grandfather.

Mr Bowker said that Wilson-Heyes, who also works as a window salesman, had seen his footballing career make progress. Shortly before he committed his latest crime the midfielder signed for Colne from Prestwich Heys FC.

"He had been making waves up the system," said Mr Bowker, who added that the footballer had also previously been involved with Manchester United and Manchester City.

"These are the years when he has been making progress on the pitch. He can't be spending time in custody otherwise that dream of becoming a professional footballer is going to become more and more distant."

But Wilson-Heyes, of Chartwell Close, Salford, hung his head as Judge Stead told him that his latest crimes are so serious, only an immediate custodial sentence could be justified.