A man who stole an ambulance was caught by police within hours and jailed the next day.

Gary Elms, 37, from Hindhead, Surrey, has been given 20 weeks behind bars for taking the ambulance on Sunday, March 17.

He stole the ambulance from the station in Kingston Road, Leatherhead, and police were called to the scene at 2.30am.

Officers quickly tracked the stolen ambulance to Chalky Lane, Chessington, and arrested Elms.

Elms, of Beacon Hill Road, pleaded guilty to burglary and aggravated vehicle taking at South East Surrey Magistrates' Court in Redhill on Monday.

Detective Constable Darryl Donaghue from Epsom CID said: "Stealing an ambulance is one of the most dangerous crimes someone can commit, not only are they putting lives at risk by taking it of service but they are difficult vehicles to manoeuvre and require specialist training to drive safely.

"Officers worked closely with their counterparts at South East Coast Ambulance Service and were able to quickly trace the vehicle."

South East Coast Ambulance Service senior operations manager Peter Radoux: "Both the break-in to the ambulance station and the subsequent theft of a front-line ambulance were extremely irresponsible acts.

"We are pleased that the police acted quickly to track down and charged the person responsible.

"We hope that those responsible understand how dangerous their actions were and that lives could have been put at risk should the vehicle have been needed in an emergency."

A South East Coast Ambulance Service spokesman said the front of the ambulance suffered minor damage but its fleet department worked to get it back on the road as soon as possible.

He said: “We have a lot of vehicles but even one vehicle off the road is one too many.”

He said the service tracks its ambulances using GPS so they noticed that the ambulance was being driven without a crew on board.

He said: “We then alerted police and informed them of the location and that is when they tracked it down.”