Man jailed for car thefts totalling £77,000 - The Rugby Observer

Man jailed for car thefts totalling £77,000

A MAN who took part in the thefts of cars worth £77,000 – including one during which a Warwickshire salesman was run over in an alleged murder attempt – has been jailed.

Matthew Barker had originally denied conspiring to steal cars with John Tuff, who has since died in prison, and had been due to stand trial at Warwick Crown Court next month.

But following Tuff’s death, the case was listed again – and Barker, 44, of Hagley Road, Birmingham, was jailed for a total of three years and five months after changing his plea to guilty.

The court heard the pair, who were living at an address in Market Harborough when they were arrested, had struck at garages in Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Coventry.

Prosecutor Matthew Brook said: “The conspiracy involves six cars worth a total of £77,000.

“They would drive to garages together, and Tuff would act as a potential customer and get in the car and either be given the keys or, as part of a test drive, would distract the salesman and drive away.

“Barker, having driven him to the scene, would then drive away in his silver Astra van in convoy with the stolen vehicle.”

Mr Brook said Barker had a number of previous convictions for thefts of cars, and in December 2016 he was released from an 18-month sentence for car theft.

In January 2017, David Wagstaff, a salesman at Guest Cars in Rugby, received a call from Barker’s phone from someone who wanted to take a £19,500 VW Transporter van for a test drive.

It was arranged for Mr Wagstaff to pick up the potential customer from the Pheasant pub in Withybrook, where a CCTV camera showed Tuff and Barker arriving together.

When Mr Wagstaff arrived, Tuff got in the passenger side, and they drove to the Galliford Try Construction premises off Leicester Road, Wolvey, where Mr Wagstaff got out to swap seats.

As Mr Wagstaff walked round the front of the vehicle, Tuff moved to the driver’s side and was about to drive off, so Mr Wagstaff stood in front of it.

But Tuff drove straight over him, dragging him along the road for around ten yards, causing severe injuries to his body, head, back and leg.

That had led to the attempted murder charge against Tuff, 36, of Bisley Street, Leicester, whose defence, the court was told at an earlier hearing, was to be that he admitted causing the injuries but ‘didn’t mean to run him over.’

The pair had previously committed a series of similar thefts, including one on December 28, 2016 at the Malyon Jones garage in Ashby-de-la-Zouch where Tuff asked to have a closer look at a red BMW, so was given the key so he could check inside.

After doing so, he handed a BMW key back to the salesman, who did not realise it was not the same key, and was seen to be driven away in Barker’s silver Astra van.

By January 3, the red BMW was being prepared for its new owner to pick it up – but Tuff and Barker returned with the stolen key and Tuff drove off in it.

During January 2017, the pair also stole a £16,500 Mercedes from Kia Sandicliffe in London Road, Leicester, a £14,500 Toyota Prius from the Farmer and Carlisle Toyota garage in Loughborough, a black BMW Sport worth £5,500 from DR Motors in St Ives Road, Leicester, and a BMW worth £17,000 from the Auto Choice garage in Fletchamstead Highway, Coventry.

Mr Brook said that on January 19, the day after the latter theft, the police went to Barker’s address at the time in Symington Way, Market Harborough, where they also found Tuff, and both men were arrested.

Barker was jailed for 35 months for the conspiracy, consecutive to six months of an eight-month suspended sentence imposed at Northampton Crown court for car theft, which he was subject to at the time.

Deputy Judge Richard Griffith-Jones told him there had been ‘a degree of sophistication’ in the planning of the thefts.


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