The Argus - - NEWS - David Grif­fin’s car­a­van was a Hobby Ex­cel­sior like this one.

A man who hap­pened to see his car­a­van, stolen from out­side his house, be­ing hauled past him on the road fol­lowed the cul­prits across the border be­fore they were fi­nally caught by Gar­dai in Dun­dalk, the dis­trict court heard last week.

De­tails of the in­ci­dent, which hap­pened on Jan­uary 25 last year, were re­vealed af­ter three Dublin men pleaded not guilty to han­dling stolen prop­erty.

Thomas Berry (22), 5 Labre Park, Kyle­more Road, Ed­ward Wall, (25), New­town Park, Tal­laght and Martin Wall (37), For­tunestown Lane, Tal­laght, were be­fore the court.

The vic­tim, David Grif­fin from Cam­lough, told Judge Flann Bren­nan how he was driv­ing close to St Paul’s High School in Bess­brook at around 2.30pm when he saw an Isuzu 4x4 go­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion tow­ing what he thought was his Hobby Ex­cel­sior car­a­van. It was just three miles from his house.

The car­a­van was dis­tinc­tive be­cause one of the win­dows was bro­ken and Mr Grif­fin con­tacted his wife to ask her if she had lent the trailer to any­one. When she said she hadn’t, and that she had last seen the car­a­van parked out­side the cou­ple’s home around 45 min­utes ear­lier, he made a de­ci­sion to fol­low it.

Mr Grif­fin con­tacted the PSNI while he was driv­ing and told them where he was and what he was do­ing. The Isuzu con­tin­ued onto the mo­tor­way head­ing South and the PSNI were able to patch Mr Grif­fin through to Gar­dai who took over the chase.

Close to junc­tion 18, a num­ber of Garda ve­hi­cles ap­peared, in­clud­ing armed mem­bers of the Re­gional Re­sponse Unit and the Isuzu pulled over, with Mr Grif­fin a short dis­tance be­hind. Gar­dai Fin­barr Gurhy and Pa­tri­cia Sloyan ar­rested three men in the jeep.

The key of the car­a­van was found in the jeep.

In­for­ma­tion pro­vided to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Mr Grif­fin showed the car­a­van, which he bought for £25,000, be­longed to him and he es­ti­mated that it would have been worth around €6,000 to €8,000 when it was taken.

In in­ter­views with Gar­dai, the de- fen­dants de­nied know­ing the car­a­van had been stolen. All three said they met with a mem­ber of an­other Trav­eller man around Newry where, they claimed, Ed­ward Wall bought the car­a­van with €3,000 in cash.

Martin Wall, who was driv­ing the Isuzu, said he ‘ hadn’t a clue who owned the jeep’ and he had been tak­ing his nephew Ed­ward to buy a car­a­van in the North.

Ed­ward Wall said he met a man from a Trav­eller fam­ily who lives ‘on the halt­ing site in Newry’ and, hav­ing met him close to the site, agreed to buy the car­a­van for cash. He said he didn’t know what the seller was wear­ing and didn’t know the reg­is­tra­tion of the ve­hi­cle he was driv­ing.

Berry told Gar­dai the Walls had asked him to ‘ go for a spin’. He said: ‘ We met a lad, and paid €3,000. Then we got stopped by Gar­dai’.

The men added they didn’t think there was any­thing sus­pi­cious about the al­leged trans­ac­tion.

Garda Gurhy said he passed on the names of the ar­rested men to the PSNI.

The de­fen­dants’ bar­ris­ter, Brian Storan, said an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the theft of the car­a­van had been car­ried out by the PSNI and a file on the mat­ter was sent to the PPS in the North, who di­rected no pros­e­cu­tion against the Walls and Berry.

Mr Storan ap­plied to Judge Bren­nan for the case to be struck out on the grounds that be­cause the PSNI had not pros­e­cuted any­one for the car­a­van theft, there was a doubt about whether the de­fen­dants had stolen it.

The men were pros­e­cuted for han­dling stolen prop­erty which states: ‘A per­son is guilty of han­dling stolen prop­erty if (oth­er­wise than in the course of the steal­ing) he or she, know­ing that the prop­erty was stolen or be­ing reck­less as to whether it was stolen’.

He said ‘all the ev­i­dence points to them as the ones who ac­tu­ally stole the car­a­van’ and if this was the case, they couldn’t be pros­e­cuted for han­dling.

Mr Storan added that the theft had not been com­mit­ted in the State.

But Judge Bren­nan said the three de­fen­dants had given state­ments to Gar­dai say­ing they didn’t steal the car­a­van and he was ‘en­ti­tled to have re­gard’ to that. He said the men were charged with han­dling in the State and that case had been es­tab­lished by Gar­dai.

He re­fused to strike out the charges and, af­ter hear­ing the de­fen­dants would not be giv­ing ev­i­dence, he con­victed all three of the charges.

Martin Wall, a fa­ther of six, has a num­ber of pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions, in­clud­ing for rob­bery for which he was given a five year sus­pended sen­tence in 2002 and for han­dling stolen prop­erty. He also has con­vic­tions for bur­glary and as­sault.

Berry was given a 12 month sen­tence, sus­pended for 18 months in Novem­ber last year for han­dling stolen prop­erty. And Ed­ward Wall, the court heard, has a num­ber of dan­ger­ous driv­ing and traf­fic con­vic­tions.

Mr Storan said the men were will­ing to do com­mu­nity ser­vice in­stead of a pri­son sen­tence.

Judge Bren­nan said Berry and Ed­ward Wall could do 120 hours in­stead of six months in pri­son, while Martin Wall ‘ who has a far worse record’ was given 200 hours in­stead of nine months.

The cases were ad­journed to May 3 for com­mu­nity ser­vice suit­abil­ity re­ports to be pre­pared.

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