Couple cloned registration plates on Mercedes stolen during Whinmoor house burglary

A car criminal and his girlfriend pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods over their efforts to fit cloned number plates to a Mercedes stolen during a Leeds house burglary.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 6:00 am

Charlie Waite and Chloe Smith were linked to the offending by mobile phone evidence recovered when they were arrested two days after the luxury vehicle was stolen in Whinmoor.

Leeds Crown Court heard a Mercedes A180 was stolen after a property on Red Hall Lane was burgled and the keys to the vehicle taken.

The couple were linked to the offence after they were involved in a police chase in a stolen Ford Focus two days later.

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Charlie Waite was sent to a young offender institution for three and a half years.

The Focus had been stolen in Birmingham on New Year's Day 2020.

The driver of the vehicle failed to stop for police in Leeds on June 18 last year.

The vehicle was abandoned but Smith was arrested nearby a short time later.

Her mobile phone was analysed and found to contain a video of the Mercedes.

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Waite was then arrested at his home in Hyde Park.

He tried to destroy his mobile phone as he was detained by officers.

The Mercedes was later found on fire in Gipton.

Firefighters were able to prevent the vehicle from being completely destroyed.

Smith's mobile phone was still able to automatically connect to the bluetooth system, proving the device had previously been in the car.

Waite, 20, of Ash Grove, Hyde Park, was found guilty of two offences of handling stolen good and dangerous driving after a trial.

Smith, 20, of Appleby Walk, Halton, pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods and aggravated vehicle taking part-way through the trial.

The court heard Waite has previous convictions for burglary and car crime.

Waite's barrister, James Littlehales, said his client accepted that it was time for him to "grow up" and stop committing offences.

Judge Andrew Stubbs QC sent Waite to a young offender institution for three and a half years.

He was banned from driving for 39 months.

Smith was made the subject of a two-year community order.

She was also ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and complete 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

After the case, Detective Inspector Vicky Vessey, who heads Leeds District Crime Team, said: “A detailed and comprehensive investigation by specialist detectives uncovered a clear trail of evidence that linked this couple to these offences and resulted in their convictions.

“We will continue to use every available tactic at our disposal to target those who commit burglaries to steal cars and, as in this case, also work to identify and bring to justice those who handle those stolen vehicles.”