Swaffham pensioner, 83, found not guilty of damaging neighbour’s van

PUBLISHED: 13:29 29 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:26 29 January 2018

Beryl Byrne outside King's Lynn Magistrates Court. Picture: Ian Burt

Beryl Byrne outside King's Lynn Magistrates Court. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

An 83-year-old woman has been found not guilty of causing criminal damage to her neighbour’s van.

Ron Hyder left his grey Mercedes Sprinter parked near his home in Whitsands Road, Swaffham, when he stopped off on a delivery on May 10 to walk his dog.

When he came back later he found a scratch down the driver’s side.

King’s Lynn magistrates heard police had installed a covert CCTV camera in neighbour Beryl Byrne’s garage overlooking the street after previous incidents where My Hyder’s vehicles had been scratched or had paint thrown over them.

And when officers looked at the footage, they saw retired secretary Mrs Byrne appear to raise her arm and drag her hand along the side as she walked past the van.

Corrine Soanders Silk, prosecuting, said: “She could be seen to be holding something in her hand and be seen to be dragging it along the side of the van.”

Mrs Soanders Silk said the damage cost £2,051.04 to repair, before playing CCTV footage of the incident. Owner Mr Hyder said the van was kept in immaculate condition and he had washed and polished it the previous weekend.

PCSO Paul Bailey, from Swaffham police station, said he had had a number of dealings with Mr Hyder regarding previous incidents of damage.

He said when he viewed the CCTV footage, he could identify Mrs Byrne because he had met her when he asked if a CCTV camera could be installed at her address.

In interview, Mrs Byrne said: “I can see me, I’m not doing anything. I ran my hand along the scratch on the van.”

When asked if she had caused the damage, she responded: “No. I know my fingernails are long but I wouldn’t damage anything.”

Alison Muir, for Mrs Byrne, said she had no previous convictions and had agreed for police to install the CCTV camera.

Mrs Byrne said she had walked past the van on her way home from going to a garage to buy peppermints. She said she had run her hand along the scratch to see what it felt like.

She said of Mr Hyder: “I didn’t consider him an enemy. He was quite good to me. If I was away he would wander around my place and make sure everything’s OK.”

Mrs Byrne denied causing the damage under cross examination. Summing up, Miss Muir said she had no motive and thought of Mr Hyder as a good neighbour.

JPs retired to consider their verdict. Chairman John Rockliff said after considering the evidence, the CCTV footage was not clear enough to show whether Mrs Byrne had caused the damage, therefore the bench had to find her not guilty.

After the hearing, Mrs Byrne said she was “relieved” at the outcome.

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