A lovesick romeo jailed for riding a jet ski from Scotland to see his girlfriend on the Isle of Man has boarded a ferry back home.
Dale McLaughlan, 28, was jailed earlier this month for breaching Covid restrictions after making a treacherous 25-mile voyage in a desperate effort to see Jessica Radcliffe, 30.
But upon his release on Wednesday – having just served half of his four-week sentence – he was among the passengers who boarded the Ben-my-Chree sailing to Heysham, Lancashire.
He was photographed at the island’s sea terminal just after 8am, escorted to the departure gate by a member of the prison staff.
McLaughlan was carrying the backpack which he had taken on his jet ski journey across the Irish Sea on Friday, December 11.
It comes after his girlfriend, who is self-isolating, had called for him to be released from prison for Christmas.
Mum-of-two Ms Radcliffe, a healthcare worker, said: “I’ve had messages from all over the world.
“People have said, ‘what he did is heroic. You should marry that man.’
“If he asks me, I’ll say yes. It’s definitely a story to tell our grandkids.”
The self-governing island introduced strict laws in which non-residents need special permission to enter and anyone arriving must self-isolate immediately.
The self-employed roofer hit it off with Ms Radcliffe while he was on the island working in September, for which he was given a travel exemption.
But after returning home, he set off on a four-and-a-half hour trip to visit her despite never having ridden a water scooter before and being unable to swim.
A court heard McLaughlan had saved up to buy the jet ski and towed it 70 miles from his home in Irvine, North Ayrshire, to a beach on the Isle of Whithorn.
He had expected the 25-mile trip to take 40 minutes but due to bad weather it took him four and a half hours.
There was just ten-minutes of fuel left in the tank when he arrived in Ramsey harbour, a police source said.
The pair went out to two Douglas nightspots the evening after he turned up at her door this month. He was arrested at her home in Anagh Coar the following day.
McLaughlan’s defence argued he suffered from depression and was struggling being unable to see his partner.
Deputy High Bailiff Christopher Arrowsmith said McLaughlan had purposely and intentionally tried to get around the restrictions, potentially putting the community at risk.
He said the journey also put the 28-year-old at “very real risk” of harm.