A MAN accused of taking a recovery truck from its compound, before crashing into a newsagent’s shop and abandoning it, has walked free from court.

Formal ‘not guilty’ verdicts were recorded by a jury at Durham Crown Court following a judge’s directions on the second day of the trial of defendant Steven Mark Deakin today (Wednesday January 9).

The 43-year-old window cleaner from Intake, in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was accused of taking the Iveco truck from Denhamfields Garage yard, in Ferryhill Station, County Durham, on the evening of Wednesday August 15 last year.

A pursuit followed through Ferryhill, in which the truck mounted a kerb, was driven over grass, struck a pursuing Mitsubishi Shogun, before coming to rest in the front of Kelly’s Newsagents and an adjoining house, in Osborne Terrace.

The truck was left in situ, having caused structural damage to both properties, and the driver fled.

Mr Deakin was arrested by police in nearby Linden Road about 45 minutes later.

The court was told the son of the truck owner saw the vehicle being driven from the yard earlier that evening.

He said he caught a short glancing view of the man at the wheel and later said he saw Mr Deakin detained by a policeman, shortly after his arrest.

In evidence he told the court he believed it was the same man but, under cross-examination, he said he could not be 100-per cent certain.

Mr Deakin denied charges of aggravated vehicle taking, dangerous driving and driving while disqualified.

Following legal submissions put forward by his barrister, Lorraine Mustard, at the end of the prosecution case, Recorder Alistair MacDonald directed the jury to formally record ‘not guilty’ verdicts.

“I’ve heard legal submissions in this case and I have to act as a legal filter.

“The issue decided is that no jury properly directed could convict on the evidence we’ve heard.

“What this case depends on is identification of the driver of that recovery truck that evening.

“We’ve heard that the witness said he could have been mistaken.

“There is a need for caution where identification is an issue.

“Out of fairness to the defendant there should have been identification procedures here.

“Where there’s a dispute over identification there should be an identity parade in controlled circumstances.

“Suspicion is simply not enough and, on my direction, it’s just not safe that a proper conviction can be found here.”

Recorder MacDonald discharged Mr Deakin, who has been in custody prior to trial, allowing him to be released later in the day.