Thieves jailed after delivery driver James Coyles died from heart attack while pursuing them in Horden
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Gary Hepworth, 44, and Joseph Niles, 41, were initially charged with manslaughter and theft following James Coyles’s death.
But they were each cleared of the more serious accusation after it emerged that Mr Coyles died from a heart attack.
Teesside Crown Court heard Mr Coyles was making a delivery for DPD in the Handley Street area of Horden at around 11am on Sunday, March 19, when the pair took his wallet and mobile phone from his van.
Paul Abrahams, prosecuting, said a witness heard him shouting “give me my phone back”.
Mr Coyles, 54, headed back to his vehicle and again confronted the pair before suffering his heart attack.
The court was told how his family’s world was “shattered” by his death.
A statement from his daughter, Rebecca Coyles, said: “His loss has impacted our lives massively.
"We miss our dad every day.”
Ian West, mitigating for Hepworth, said: “Their loss is very much regretted and sympathised with by Mr Hepworth.”
Ian Mullarkey, mitigating for Niles, said his client was “shocked by what unfolded before him”.
Hepworth, formerly of Hartlepool and most recently of Greenside Avenue, in Peterlee, and Niles, of no fixed address but formerly from Peterlee, both admitted theft.
Hepworth also admitted assaulting a police officer while he was getting arrested.
Recorder Paul Reid said no words could “adequately express the sorrow that anyone listening to this case must feel.”
Niles was jailed for six months and Hepworth for eight months.