Thursday 21 September 2017

Trevor Francis’ son linked to raid by fingerprints after motoring offence

Matthew Cooper

The son of former soccer star Trevor Francis was linked to a burglary through fingerprint records held by police following a motoring offence, a court has heard.

James Francis, 26, was convicted of failing to provide a specimen for analysis in 2010, almost a year before he is alleged to have broken into the home of former Aston Villa footballer Lee Hendrie.

Francis, from Solihull, denies burgling an unoccupied cottage at Hendrie's £1.6 million mansion in Rowington, Warwickshire, between July 18 and August 3 2011.

The Crown alleges the defendant stole a range of designer goods and six football souvenirs - including England shirts from Wayne Rooney and David Beckham - after breaking a door panel to enter the property.

During the second day of a trial at Warwick Crown Court, jurors heard Francis was convicted on August 5 2010 of failing to provide a specimen in connection with a motoring matter.

The officer in charge of the investigation into the alleged burglary at Hendrie's home, Police Staff Investigator Len Dickinson, told the court Francis was interviewed in both August and October 2011 after being linked to the inquiry through fingerprint records.

Answering questions from defence barrister Michael Hubbard QC, Mr Dickinson said Francis had been "fully co-operative" and had attended interviews voluntarily.

During his evidence, Mr Dickinson also confirmed that a search of Francis's home had found nothing resembling the items alleged to have been taken during the break-in.

Warwickshire Police fingerprint expert Paul Edwards also gave evidence to the jury about a thumbprint "lifted" from a door panel recovered from the cottage.

Mr Edwards told the court: "I compared that mark with the impressions on the fingerprint form in the name of James Francis and found them to be made by the same person."

A second print found on a piece of card at the cottage matched a record of Francis's right thumb, the witness said, adding: "I have no doubt that the impressions have been made by the same person.

"These findings have also been verified by two of my peers."

At the close of the prosecution case, the jury were read transcripts of both police interviews with Francis.

During the interviews, he said he was employed as a manager for a cleaning company and had worked at Hendrie's home in May 2011 after former Birmingham City loanee Matt Derbyshire, who had rented the six-bedroom property, moved out.

Francis told police he had entered the cottage during a clean-up of the main house and had noticed framed football shirts inside the outbuilding.

The retired England international's son added that his parents had lived at one of the cottages about five years earlier and that he was familiar with its lay-out.

In the second interview, at which he was arrested and quizzed under caution, Francis told officers: "The amount of memorabilia I have got off my dad - I've got a signed Pele shirt, a Maradona shirt - why on earth would I want a Lee Hendrie shirt?"

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.

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