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Man convicted of lorry theft

PUBLISHED: 19:17 16 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:12 03 March 2010

A PLEA of innocence was not enough to prevent Martin Draper being convicted stealing a lorry containing stereo equipment worth £55,000 from Felixstowe.

A PLEA of innocence was not enough to prevent Martin Draper being convicted stealing a lorry containing stereo equipment worth £55,000 from Felixstowe.

The 23-year-old denied the charge, and shook his head as the jury returned its guilty verdict at Bury St Edmunds Crown Court.

The court heard that his co-defendant Andrew Welsh, 27, had already admitted theft, driving without insurance, and otherwise than in accordance with a licence.

The men, both from Liverpool, were arrested by police in the West Midlands after a tip-off from another trucker, on June 30.

Judge John Holt told the jury: "There is no dispute that there was a theft of this lorry and its contents. The issue here is whether Mr Draper was one of the thieves – was he jointly responsible for the theft? The question is 'Were they in it together?'

"Mr Welsh drove the stolen lorry back to the north west. The prosecution's case is that Mr Draper's role was to take him to Felixstowe for that purpose. Mr Draper says he had no idea that the lorry was going to be stolen – he innocently helped out a friend, by driving Mr Welsh from Liverpool to Felixstowe."

Draper borrowed a car to make the journey and arrived in Suffolk by 5am.

Mr Holt said on the dual carriageway at Felixstowe, Welsh spotted the lorry on the opposite side of the road in a layby.

The duo turned round and pulled up behind it. It was unlocked and the engine was running, so Welsh got in and drove off, having said 'Stay with me' to Draper, who followed in the car.

Mr Holt said Draper's only payment appeared to have been the offer of a drink, and urged the jury to decide if he had simply been an unpaid taxi driver, or whether he knew of the intended theft.

After 20 minutes' deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict.

Draper then admitted driving without insurance on June 30.

Sentencing was adjourned to Ipswich Crown Court on January 6, to coincide with Welsh's sentencing.

Draper - who prosecutor Dominic Lewis said had previous convictions for going equipped for theft - was warned a prison sentence was 'quite likely.'

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