Merthyr man acquitted of burglary and arson of Barry business
2:02pm Monday 14th October 2013 in News
A MERTHYR man has been found not guilty of arson and burglary of a Barry business.
Lee Andrew Davies, of Woodland Place in Merthyr, was acquitted of the charges at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday, October 11, after a three day trial.
Davies had been accused of stealing £4,000 worth of autoparts from Welsh Autoparts on Broad Street in Barry on the night of June 17 last year, as well as setting fire to the building in a bid to cover his tracks.
Defending barrister Jane Rowley argued that the burglary was an “inside job” in a bid to claim insurance from the stolen goods.
The court heard that the company has since gone into receivership and that two of the managing directors were now living in Spain.
It was initially thought there had been an explosion at the premises, as the shop front "fell on to the pavement" after witnesses heard an "almighty crash”, but a chartered surveyor subsequently concluded that the front of the shop had collapsed onto the pavement as a result of rotten wood, the sheer weight of the shutters and loose fixtures.
During the evidence of DC Andrew Moffatt, who was investigating the case, the jury heard that after Davies was arrested on July 30 his house was searched and “nothing was found linking Davies to any of the items stolen”.
During the alleged burglary and arson two fires were started in the premises, with one near the front and one near the back.
Davies, 30, was arrested after finger prints were found matching his on a spray can near the seat of a fire that was started in the premises.
After chemical testing his finger prints were also found on a box near where another fire had been started in the building.
Both fires were extinguished by the fire service after they were called to the scene.
The court heard that an estimated £4,000 worth of autoparts, including gaskets and light bulbs, were taken from the building, but this was later questioned as former managing director Len Burke said that the inventory had been "exaggerated" and the total was more likely to be closer to £1,000.
Davies told the court during his cross examination that he had been at the premises on the night of the incident, but that he had only been in there for "about 30 seconds" and that he had only gone down the steps to check if anyone was in the building after the door was left open.
Davies had gone to the premises in Barry after his partner had returned from work, at the bingo hall above the autoparts shop, and was unsure whether she had locked the shutters at the back of the bingo hall.
Davies, as well as his partner Nicole Davies, his two children, aged 12 months and nine years old at the time, and Nicole’s sister, Tracey O’Rouke, all got in the car and drove from Merthyr to Barry to check whether the shutters were locked, parking up at about 10pm.
When asked why his finger prints were found on a can that was found directly near where a fire was started in the premises he said: "I believe my finger prints were on the can as I picked them up and moved them from the yard at the back and out them by the red door."
He had earlier told the court that he regularly used to move rubbish left outside by the owners of Welsh Autoparts.
Davies, who also worked part time at the bingo hall, added: "I wouldn't have set a fire to those premises as that's my livelihood."
During the trial the jury, made up of seven women and five men, heard that Davies had previously been convicted of handling stolen goods, theft from a vehicle and robbery.
When asked about his previous convictions for handling stolen goods, robbery and theft he said that he had always pleaded guilty.
"I have never had a trial and have always pleaded guilty. When I have committed these offences I have held my hands up to it and admitted it."
He added that he had no previous convictions for burglary, criminal damage or arson.
Lee Andrew Davies was acquitted of both charges of burglary and arson after the jury deliberated for around three hours.