25th Jun, 2022

Robbery getaway driver killed accomplice in crash

A robbery get-away driver who crashed into a tree, killing one of his accomplices, suffered head injuries which were so severe he was unable to take part in his own trial.

Neil Docherty was one of three men who robbed staff at a One Stop store Allesley Village, Coventry, in December 2013.

Then with him driving as they made their get-away, they smashed into a tree killing front seat passenger David Molloy and severely injuring Docherty and rear seat passenger Keith Bailey.

And because of brain injuries he suffered in the crash, doctors concluded Docherty (41) of Hardy Road, Radford, Coventry, was mentally unfit to take part in a trial.

So instead of being asked to return verdicts of guilty or not guilty, a jury at Warwick Crown Court had to decide whether he ‘did the acts’ – and took just an hour to find that he did.

Prosecutor Ben Close said the case involved an armed robbery at the One Stop store in Birmingham Road, Allesley Village, on December 4, 2013, and its aftermath.

“At 20 past eight in the evening three men entered the premises, with at least one carrying a crowbar, and stole cash and a quantity of cigarettes.

“Thereafter, the get-away vehicle was observed by a number of other people relatively close to where the robbery took place before crashing into a tree.

“Tragically that crash killed one of the occupants, the front-seat passenger David Molloy, and the prosecution say Mr Docherty was the person who was driving, and that the crash was caused by him driving in a dangerous way.”

Describing the robbery, which was captured by CCTV cameras, Mr Close said that after the robbers entered the store, wearing hoods and with their faces covered, the two members of staff were ordered to get down on the floor.

The raiders then went behind the counter where one of them used the crowbar to force open a till, from where between £200 and £400 in cash was taken.

Meanwhile, the other two stole a large quantity of cigarettes, with one of them holding open a sack as the other, Docherty, scooped packets of cigarettes off the shelves into it.

After telling a woman who walked into the shop ‘You shouldn’t be in here missus,’ the man with the crowbar urged the other two ‘quick, quick, it’s time to go,’ and they left the shop.

But at 8.25 their Peugeot 307 get-away car crashed into a tree in Brownhills Green Road, by the junction with Waste Lane, killing Mr Molloy and seriously injuring Docherty and Mr Bailey.

Mr Close said the car had been seen heading along Coundon Wedge Drive, which has a 40mph limit, at excessive speed before turning into Brownhills Green Road, where it took a bend without braking and crashed into the tree.

Showing the jury a photograph of the crashed Peugeot, Mr Close drew their attention to a sack in the back of the car.

“There is no dispute this is the vehicle which collided with the tree. One of the issues is whether that which you see in the rear is a sack consistent with the one you’ve seen in that footage being used to steal the cigarettes. Packets of cigarettes can also be seen inside that sack.”

Because the men in the car had been thrown around by the force of the impact, there was initially some confusion about who was where in the front.

But although his upper body was across on the passenger side, Docherty’s legs were on the driver’s side, said Mr Close.

And he pointed out the car had been sold to Docherty’s girlfriend about a month earlier, since when the seller had seen both her and Docherty driving it.

Addressing the jury, Andrew Horsell, defending, argued that there was no evidence of identification in relation to the robbery, only circumstantial evidence that Docherty was involved.

“As far as the driving is concerned, one of the questions that has been raised is ‘who is the driver?’ People are going to be thrown around, particularly if they’re not wearing seatbelts.

“You have to be sure. You have only this one shot to get it right. If you think he’s probably the driver, that is not enough; he’s probably a robber, that is not enough; the car was probably being driven dangerously, that is not enough.”

After the jury agreed Docherty had been the driver and had taken part in the robbery, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC explained: “Of course, at the time he was of sound mind, but now he’s not.

“Because he is unfit to be tried, that means there is only a limited sanction that can be placed on him.”

Docherty cannot be jailed, and can only be dealt with in one of three ways – a hospital order under the Mental Health Act, a supervision order or an absolute discharge.

But the judge commented: “Had this man been found guilty by the jury, I would have sent him to prison for in excess of ten years. This was an organised commercial robbery.”

He observed that current reports on Docherty suggested there was no treatment that could be given to him – but ordered further reports to be prepared.

“They are to address whether any treatment can be offered, the degree of risk, and the suitability for hospital orders. In the meantime the probation service and/or the local authority are to indicate what form supervision of this man, who presents a danger to the community, would take.”

Judge Lockhart adjourned for the reports to be prepared, and Docherty, who he had ordered to attend court and to go into the dock following the jury’s verdicts, was granted bail.

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