Police track suspect’s mobile phone after £50,000 security van robbery

A police van and security van in a taped off area in Asda car park Marina Way.
A police van and security van in a taped off area in Asda car park Marina Way.

A mobile phone of a robbery suspect was linked to several key locations following a £50,000 raid at Hartlepool’s Asda supermarket, a court heard.

A phone number attributed to Christopher Barnett, 27, on trial at Teesside Crown Court, is said to have connected to phone masts closest to Hart village where the alleged getaway car was caught on camera, as well as a landfill site where the vehicle was set on fire.

The jury also heard how the phone connected 11 times in a three-hour period on the morning of the robbery to a mast that serves Station Town where the empty Loomis cash box was later recovered by police.

Detective Constable Stephen Burke told how mobile phones connect to masts - or cells - whenever they are used for calls, text messages or connecting to the internet.

Cross examining, Jane Waugh, defending Barnett, put it to DC Burke that the cell that covers Station Town where the cash box was retrieved also covered the home address of Barnett in Trimdon.

She suggested the phone could have been at Barnett’s home when it connected to the mast.

DC Burke said: “It’s possible but I can’t say where the phone was.”

But Martin Towers, prosecuting, said although the Station Town mast also covered Barnett’s home it was not the primary one for his home address, but was a neighbouring mast.

Barnett’s phone was also said to have connected to a mast at Hart village on the morning of the robbery.

A vehicle matching the description of the 4x4 used in the robbery was caught on camera in Hart at 4.54am on September 1, 2014.

DC Burke accepted the Hart phone mast was also one of several that served Barnett’s home address.

Two connections from the phone attributed to Barnett were also recorded on a mast for a landfill site at Claxton in Hartlepool where a Mitsubishi Shogun was found burned out.

Miss Waugh put it to DC Burke that masts in rural places cover wider areas than those in urban locations.

She said: “This contact in a rural landscape, the user of the phone could have been anywhere probably up to Hart village and maybe even beyond?”

DC Burke said: “Potentially, yes.”

The court heard earlier this week how a security guard was robbed by someone wearing a balaclava when they refilled the ATM at Asda in Marina Way at about 4.50am on September 1, 2014.

Barnett, of Wood View ,Trimdon Colliery denies robbery and converting criminal property.

Jasmine Jaafri, 19, of Milbank Road, Hartlepool, and Amy Walton, 22, of St Oswald’s Street, Hartlepool, who are alleged to have been part of the robbery gang, deny the same charges.

The trial continues.