A MEMBER of a gang of thieves who stole £15,000 worth of equipment from a Scout group compound in Harlow has been convicted by a jury.
Daron Reader (46) was identified by Heidi Shepherd, a friend of one of the Scout leaders, who came forward after she read about the crime in the Star.
Chelmsford Crown Court was told Mrs Shepherd has spoken to Reader, one of five men she saw loading up camping equipment from a container onto a lorry at the 1st Great Parndon Scouts hut in School Lane on the night of February 4.
At the time she did not realise she was witnessing a crime taking place.
Mrs Shephard’s testimony was the only evidence against Reader, of River View, Grays. The court heard that there was no forensic evidence and the other four members of the gang had not been traced reported the Harlow Star.
Two roll-on, roll-off containers lent to the Scouts by ED Edwards Waste Management Ltd of Roydon were also stolen. One contained camping and other equipment while the second was used to store builder’s tools.
Reader, who claimed he at his fiancée’s home in South Ockendon on the night of the thefts, denied three offences of theft but was convicted by the jury after just two hours of deliberation.
Mrs Shephard, a support worker for the disabled, told the court she positively identified Reader from photographs she was shown by police.
She said she first saw the men when she was walking home with her husband and went back out about 11pm with her dog.
She said she knew the Scouts were going camping that weekend and she spent about 20 minutes watching what was going on as the gang transferred items from one container to a flat bed lorry and a Transit van.
When she read the police appeal in the Star a few days later asking for information about the burglary, she came forward.
After the verdict was announced, the court heard that Reader has 44 previous convictions including offences of burglary, handling stolen goods, shoplifting and supplying heroin. He served five years in jail for the drug offence.
Judge Patrick O’Brien released Reader on bail pending his sentencing later this month but warned him: “Obviously you are a candidate for custody.”