Men on trial for stealing woman's 40 ft park home

Exeter Crown Court

Exeter Crown Court. - Credit: Archant

A haulage company manager and a truck driver have gone on trial accused of stealing an entire 40-foot mobile home from a residents’ rights campaigner.

Sonia McColl, who has been awarded an OBE for her work to protect occupants of park homes from site owners, was moving the £28,000 home to Devon when it was stolen in 2017.

She had been planning to set it up as a granny annexe at her daughter’s home in Bishop’s Tawton, near Barnstaple, but it was stolen while in transit from a haulier’s yard in Willand.

Sales manager Darren Baseley has pleaded guilty to stealing the home but co-defendant Stewart Gregory, who is alleged to have driven it away, denies the offence.

The caravan, which was furnished and ready to be lived in, was never recovered, despite a nationwide appeal by the police after the theft in November 2017.

The jury at Exeter Crown Court has been told that Baseley was the ‘inside man’ while Gregory’s role was to drive away the home.

Gregory, aged 43, of Aldershot Road, Normandy, Surrey, denies theft. Baseley, aged 47, of Henrys Run, Cranbrook, admits theft but denies blackmail.

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Mr Peter Coombe, prosecuting, said Mrs McColl was moving to live with her daughter in 2017 when she bought the home in Nuneaton and arranged for Willand-based TS Haulage to deliver it to North Tawton.

They sub-contracted the job to Gregory who made the trip on November 8 but said the site at North Tawton needed more work before the caravan could be put in place.

It was taken back to the depot in Willand where it was due to be moved by another haulage firm on November 24 but was stolen just after midnight on November 22.

Mr Coombe said that CCTV captured an Iveco tractor unit identical to that owned by Gregory leaving the site and mobile phone date showed he had travelled from his home in Surrey.

The call data also showed he was in touch with Baseley, who had travelled from his home nearby to the depot to meet him.  

Automatic number plate recognition cameras showed Gregory’s truck heading North after the theft, despite part of the tractor unit’s plate being obscured.

Mr Coombe said Baseley made a phone calls to TS Haulage last year threatening to implicate the company in the theft unless they helped pay his legal fees.

The calls were recorded and he was heard describing himself as sly and sneaky and saying he had not expected so much police interest.

He said: “I thought it was just going to be a crime number. It was just a crappy caravan and an old biddy. I didn’t know she had an OBE and some weight behind her.”

In a statement which was read to the court, Ms McCall, aged 72, said Baseley had charged her extra for storing the caravan at the yard but was then told by the firm that it had vanished.

She is a prominent member of the Park Home Owners’ Justice Campaign and jurors were asked if they had any links with the organisation before they were empanelled.

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