Would-be jewel thief "soiled his pants" when arrested by police
A low-level career criminal soiled himself when an attempted £1 million jewellery raid was halted by armed police, a court in the UK heard.
Mark Harding was said to have been "stunned" when the attempted heist in the upmarket Belgravia area of London was intercepted by Metropolitan Police, Southwark Crown Court was told.
Harding, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary along with three accomplices, looked embarrassed in court as the moment their plan was foiled was recounted by defence counsel Simon Pentol.
Speaking at the sentencing hearing Mr Pentol, who described 45-year-old Harding as "an unsuccessful, low-level perennial criminal with a drink and drugs problem", said: "On arrest, he looked utterly stunned and soiled himself.
"His reaction when arrested gives an indication of the type of man he is. He soiled himself when an officer put a gun in his face."
Harding, in the dock, put his head in his hands and rocked forward and backward as details of the incident were heard in court.
Harding and fellow defendants Rashid Alleyne, Gavin James and Peter Costello arrived at Eaton Place on September 22 last year attempting to steal at least £1 million jewellery. They all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary at a previous court appearance.
Mr Pentol said his client, who had 28 convictions for 64 offences, had racked up a debt to a drugs lord when a courier job went wrong some months earlier.
Describing his normal pattern of burgling non-dwelling properties, he said: "He is not the sort of man who would spend an afternoon sipping tea in Belgravia."
Harding, a crack cocaine addict, also pleaded guilty to two counts of handling stolen goods - a van connected to the failed raid, and £100,000 worth of luxury hair extensions.
Mr Pentol said: "He knows he has to change his life now."
Prosecutor Oliver Doherty said the supposed target - Melleney Samsudin, the ex-wife of Malaysian businessman Dato Samsudin Abu Hassan - had been trying to sell her diamond jewellery online, which alerted a criminal gang.
Alleyne, Harding and James made reconnaissance visits to the area in the days before the heist attempt, with Alleyne, 24, using his Yodel delivery vest to gain access to the communal area of the property in Eaton Place, the court heard.
Mr Doherty said the quartet arrived at the address at 3.13pm on the day of the attempted raid. James, 36, the getaway driver, waited in the Audi outside while the other three went inside. The court heard there was a sledgehammer in the Audi's boot, although the defendants did not use it.
The prosecutor said Alleyne rang the flat's buzzer, and an occupant - not Ms Samsudin - let them into the communal area. Unbeknown to them, the police were lying in wait.
Mr Doherty said: "Once in the communal area ... armed police intervened. They used stun grenades to disorientate the three defendants.
"Outside the property, armed officers go to the Audi where James, the getaway driver, was waiting."
Sebastian Gardiner, defending 34-year-old Costello, said his client was a long-standing cocaine addict.
He said: "He was not involved in any of the planning. He was approached at a late stage.
"He is angry that he allowed himself to get involved in this offence. He was not strong enough to resist the temptation when it came his way."
Adrian Eissa, defending Alleyne, said his client took part in the heist to help pay off gambling debts.
He said: "His mother is a social worker who previously worked for the Probation Service with young offenders. His father works in security and is too ashamed and angry with his son to come to court.
"They are at a loss as to how he (Alleyne) has come to this."
Abigail Penny, for cocaine and alcohol addict James, said he was recruited on the day of the crime after another driver pulled out at the last minute.
She said: "His role in this matter is subordinate as a driver.
"He owed money for drugs and was told he had to assist."
James did not know any of his co-defendants before the attempted burglary, she said.