Asbo youth set fire to car to cover up theft

A TEENAGE thief left a trail of destruction at a railway station car park when he set fire to a vehicle to cover his tracks and the blaze spread.

Gareth Evans had already been barred from Micklefield station in Leeds under an Asbo because of his earlier record of offending in the area but on May 27 last year he and another man decided to steal satellite navigation systems.

After breaking into three vehicles without success Evans cut his hand smashing the window of a fourth and decided to set it alight to destroy any DNA left at the scene.

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Leeds Crown Court heard yesterday the fire engulfed the Renault Scenic and then spread to three other cars parked nearby as well as a wooden fence, sending black smoke billowing across the car park.

Sentencing Evans to four years in a young offender institution, Judge Kerry Macgill said he had a horrendous record for car related crime for someone his age. "You are a feckless, stupid young individual who has had little care or concern for anybody but yourself in your formative years."

The judge said Evans had started the fire to get rid of the forensic evidence in a public car park without thought of the dangers to anyone passing, to trains which might have been hit by vehicles full of fuel exploding, or to the firemen called to fight the blaze.

Evans, 19, of Churchville, Micklefield, admitted three charges of attempted theft, four of arson and breaching the anti-social behaviour order which also barred him from Garforth Station unless catching a train.

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He also asked for 23 other offences of burglary, damage and theft to be taken into consideration.

Philip Morris, 26, also of Churchville, Micklefield, who admitted three charges of attempted theft with him was given a community order for 12 months with supervision and 200 hours unpaid work.

The judge said although not involved in the arson he was prepared to join Evans in dishonesty. "You are older than him and should have known better."

The court was shown CCTV of Evans in the car park starting the fire in the Renault which smouldered for a time before the flames appeared and the fire spread to the three neighbouring vehicles.

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When fireman and police arrived residents said they had seen the two men in the area.

Patricia Doherty, prosecuting, said four commuters returned to the car park that day to find their cars, worth more than 8,000, destroyed.

One woman was particularly upset because when her car went up in flames, her wedding album was in the boot.

The other offences committed by Evans involved a further 22,000 loss or damage. He was arrested and at the time denied the offences.

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Morris later went to the police station voluntarily. He told officers Evans was "pissed out of his face" and he had tried to persuade him not to set alight to the car but he had used a lighter to do so.

Mark Miller, representing Evans, said he was drunk when he decided to commit "a spree of vehicle offences with his co-accused to gain satellite navigation systems for sale to purchase further alcohol."

When he decided to set fire to the car to destroy his DNA after cutting his hand, he never intended the damage that was unfortunately caused.

He had not accepted responsibility when first seen by police but had pleaded guilty and, he said, there were at last signs Evans was finally maturing.

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While on remand he had time to think about his behaviour and had asked officers to come and see him in custody and admitted to them the other offences taken into consideration.

After the case Detective Inspector Dave Boldison of British Transport police said: "Gareth Evans has been a menace to the residents of Micklefield and this sentence today is welcome.

"It will perhaps gave them and the residents of Garforth some peace from him for a time."

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