OAP accused of 1986 gems robbery after fingerprint breakthrough
A PENSIONER has gone on trial accused of an armed robbery more than 26 years ago after police arrested him following advances in fingerprint technology.
Retired Barrie Rhodes, 65, was held after prints from a 1986 jewellery raid uploaded to a new national database allegedly matched his. He is accused of being one of two men who walked into Jeanian Jewellers, in Derby, on July 10 in 1986, armed with a sawn-off shotgun.
The weapon was pointed at the head of a woman working in the wholesalers but the robbers left empty-handed after her husband “very pluckily” fought them off, Derby Crown Court heard yesterday.
Rhodes, of Monument Lane, Ironville, denies having anything to do with the attempted robbery.
He told police that, in 1986, he was buying and selling jewellery, which he claimed explained why his fingerprints were on items in the Osmaston Road business.
He was arrested on suspicion of the crime after his fingerprints were taken on a different matter in November 2011, the court heard.
Justin Wigoder, prosecuting, said: “A scenes-of-crime officer found a number of fingerprints (at the scene of the attempted robbery) but at the time they couldn’t be identified.
“There are various reasons for that – the most obvious is it was years before the computerisation of fingerprints.
“But technology has improved and in November 2011 this defendant had his fingerprints taken and they were compared with fingerprints found in the jewellers and not less than 10 were found to be the defendant’s.
“The prosecution say that proves he was one of the robbers.”
Mr Wigoder said Rhodes’ fingerprints were found on three or four jewellery boxes, which were believed to have been touched by raiders in the attempted robbery.
Also, Rhodes’ fingerprints were found on a note recovered at the scene on which was a list of items – a rope, master keys, walkie talkies, brief case and gloves.
Mr Wigoder said the list was clearly drawn up in preparation for the robbery. He added that police no longer had the piece of paper but it had been photographed.
Rhodes could not explain to police how his fingerprints had got on the piece of paper.
The couple looking after the business at the time were Alan and Irene Hardy – the parents of owner Ian Hardy.
After the attempted robbery, they were interviewed by BBC News. A clip of the broadcast was played to the jury.
Asked by the news reporter about her experience, Mrs Hardy said: “There’s nothing you can say when you’ve got a gun pointing at your head, you do as you are told.”
Mr Hardy was then asked: “You had a go?”
He replied: “Wouldn’t you if they had your wife on the floor? I was shouting ‘if you touch her’.”
The court heard that Alan Hardy had since died and that Mrs Hardy’s memory was now very fragile.
In court, Ian Hardy said his father had recounted the incident to him after he had returned from holiday about three days later.
Mr Hardy said: “My father basically threatened the guy ‘if you touch her I’ll sort you out’ and hit him and then hit the alarm system. They hit him with part of the gun.”
He said his mother had been “very scared” by the incident. The jury was told that the robbers had fled the shop and outside a woman had kicked a briefcase out of the hand of one of them.
The trial continues.