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Defendants ‘turned a blind eye’ over suspicious metal
A SCRAP metal yard accepted tonnes of “suspicious” metal cabling and lead but “turned a blind eye” to where it came from, a jury has heard.
Two undercover police officers posing as thieves were met with “wilful blindness” when they tried to sell metal to TR Rogers & Sons in Nuneham Courtenay, owned by Terence Rogers, a prosecution barrister claimed yesterday.
He alleged that five men accepted underground utility cables and lead apparently taken from a church roof – despite one of them even calling the two sellers “Dodgy and Dodgier”.
John Law, prosecuting, said they were caught out by an undercover sting operation set up by Thames Valley Police in the wake of a string of high-profile metal thefts.
The cables, he said, had in fact been used by the police with the permission of Scottish & Southern Energy and BT.
Now the five men are on trial at Oxford Crown Court and deny eight counts of attempting to conceal, disguise or convert criminal property between March and May last year.
They are yard owner Terence Rogers, 70, his son Simon Rogers, 42, Martin Pace, 36, Ian Marshall, 29, and 34-year-old Darren Andrews.
Opening the case yesterday, Mr Law said that on eight occasions the undercover officers sold the defendants metal intended to “arouse suspicion in an honest person”.
He told the jury that all five men who worked at the yard, “turned a blind eye” when faced with the suspicious metal – more than two tonnes over two months – even when the officers mentioned having stolen it.
He said: “This was an operation to target local scrap metal dealerships, get evidence of what was taking place, and bring prosecutions against people in those yards.”
Mr Law explained that it was not only records of the transactions the police were interested in, but also the “conversations” that took place when metal was traded.
The barrister said this led to the use of two undercover officers – referred to as ‘Andy’ and ‘Kinger’ to protect their identities – who posed as metal thieves.
He said: “They were tasked to go into the yards, such as TR Rogers and Sons, and attempt to trade scrap metal that, by its nature and appearance, would immediately arouse suspicion in an honest person.
“They took mains power cables and BT cables, often in long lengths that had been cut down, so it would be obvious it had just come out of the ground.
“During the operation the undercover officers were making comments, such as about having stolen the cable over night, and not having much sleep because of it.
“We suggest that the comments taken together with the metal’s appearance would have openly suggested to anyone at the yard that the metal had been stolen.”
He said there was also evidence that the defendants suspected the metal had been stolen, with Simon Rogers calling the undercover officers “Dodgy and Dodgier”.
Mr Law added: “This was a case, we say, of people who were prepared to ask no questions and be told no lies.”
He said on one occasion Simon Rogers wouldn’t accept a war memorial plaque, which he said was “a bit naughty”, but bought lead that the officers suggested had been stolen from the same church.
Mr Law said when they were arrested and questioned all five defendants maintained they had performed proper checks and operated within the law.
In total 20 people were charged with 146 offences linked with illegal activity at scrap metal yards across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hertfordshire as part of Operation Symphony.
Terence Rogers, 70, of High Street, Drayton St Leonard, charged with two counts of attempting to conceal, disguise or convert criminal property
Simon Rogers, 42, of Bromsgrove, Faringdon, charged with five counts of attempting to conceal, disguise or convert criminal property
Martin Pace, 36, of Abbott Road, Didcot, charged with four counts of attempting to conceal, disguise or convert criminal property
Ian Marshall, 29, of Evenlode Drive, Berinsfield, charged with two counts of attempting to conceal or convert criminal property
Darren Andrews, 34, of Colwell Road, Berinsfield, charged with one count of attempting to conceal, disguise or convert criminal property