As far as lies go, this one is an absolute whopper.
For this slippery angler stole a huge bass from an aquarium – before pretending he had caught to win a sea fishing contest.
Cheating Matthew Clark, 29, took the first prize, worth £800, and proudly posed for photos clutching the 13lb whopper that he had pinched on the final day of the competition.
But a rival angler recognised the monster fish following a trip to the aquarium in Guernsey and police were called in to investigate.
Clark was yesterday given 100 hours’ community service after admitting burglary and fraud.
He was allowed to walk free after taking a two-year oath of good behaviour. He will face jail if he breaks the terms.
Clark owed the manager of the island’s St Peter Port Aquarium £1,500 so hatched a plan to break into the aquarium, steal the bass and then return it while paying off some of his debt.
In July last year, on the last day of the Bailiwick Bass Club Open Competition, Clark scaled cliffs, climbed a rope ladder and snuck into the aquarium through a back door.
He dropped and injured the fish while racing to get his “catch” to the 8pm weigh-in at a nearby fishing shop.
The bass tipped the scales at 13lb 13oz – easily beating the runner-up which weighed 10lb 3oz.
Clark, of St Sampson, Guernsey, was congratulated by beaten anglers and was due to pick up his winnings later in the week.
But fellow competitor Shane Bentley, 38, was convinced he had seen the bass somewhere before.
He said: “My wife and I took the kids to the aquarium and saw the bass in a tank – it stood out because it had some very distinct markings on its head.
“It wasn’t until the winning fish was lifted for the photo that I thought, ‘That’s the fish from the aquarium’.
“Next morning, I went to the aquarium and asked to see the bass with the markings. But neither myself or the owner could find it anywhere.”
Mr Bentley told the contest organisers, who alerted the police. Meanwhile, the thief had panicked and sold the bass to a fishmonger.
But police matched the head of the fish carcass to the missing bass and then arrested Clark.
After failing to reel in officers with a story about catching the fish at a nearby spot, he confessed in full.