AFTER “10 months of hell” for an Abergavenny businessman accused of causing grievous bodily harm against a thief he caught in the act, it took a jury just 25 minutes to reach a verdict of not guilty.
Seven women and five men found Andrew Woodhouse had acted in self defence when he left Kevin Green, 53, with two broken legs and a broken forearm on March 26 last year after Mr Green stole diesel from his yard in Llanfoist.
Mr Green and his son-in-law Timothy Cross targeted Abergavenny Tyres, where Mr Woodhouse also runs a landscaping business, but were caught when an alarm went off at just after midnight.
Father-of-five Mr Woodhouse, 44, got out of bed at his home in Govilon and drove the two miles to his yard, where he pursued the two thieves across a field. He caught up with them at Samuel Salter Close where he found them next to a Vauxhall Zafira getaway car and grabbed one of the men to try and retrieve stolen jerry cans of diesel. Mr Woodhouse described wrestling what felt like a fence post from one of the thieves after he had been hit to the hand and shoulder and pushed to the ground.
In a police interview he described swinging out “like a mad man” between six and ten times, hitting the car and the air in an attempt to defend himself and his property.
There were cheers and sobs from the public gallery as the verdict was read out, with family later describing the verdict as a cause for champagne.
After he walked free from Cardiff Crown Court yesterday, Mr Woodhouse said he just wanted to get back to work and put this behind him. In a statement, he said the last 10 months had been “very harrowing for me, my family and for the people I employ. I have striven to build businesses to provide a living for me and my family, and in order to provide employment to others.”
“I acted to retrieve property stolen from my business and to detain two persons who were ultimately convicted of theft. In the course of the struggle it is unfortunate that one of the thieves got injured. It was never my intention to injure anyone that night, but it might serve as a reminder to other thieves that there are sometimes unintended consequences to entering property in the dead of night.”
Prosecutor James Wilson alleged that “when he saw his hard-earned money carted off by a couple of ne’er-do-wells, he gave chase in anger” intending to injure them, saying Mr Woodhouse had gone too far.
But the jury accepted defence lawyer Andrew Taylor’s argument that his client had shown “stoicism, courage and some fitness” to chase after the thieves, adding many people would have given up and made an insurance claim — but Mr Woodhouse was “made of sterner stuff”. He said his client had defended himself when attacked.
When PC Aime McSherry arrived at the scene, Mr Woodhouse handed over Timothy Cross, who he had caught and pinned down. Mr Cross told her: “He’s gone over the top with my father-in-law.”
She then found Mr Green lying under a duvet on the ground. She said: “I asked him what happened. He said ‘I been nicking diesel and some bloke has beaten me up with a stick and broken my legs and my arm. I need an ambulance’.
The court heard Mr Green needed several operations and is still using crutches.
Mr Green and Mr Cross admitted theft and were fined by magistrates. Mr Taylor, defending, told the court his client had been repeatedly targeted by thieves who at one point stole goods worth between £15,000 and £25,000.
Mr Woodhouse’s family said they were delighted that “justice had been done”.
Mr Woodhouse thanked his family and friends whose support “helped me no end and allowed me to gather the strength to stay strong and to focus on defending myself”.
He also thanked the jury, barrister Andrew Taylor and solicitors Keith Evans and Company.
Mr Woodhouse was found not guilty of both causing GBH and causing GBH with intent by unanimous verdicts.