The jury has been sent out in the trial of an Ironville man accused of attempting to rob a Derby wholesale jewellers 26 years ago.
Barrie Rhodes, now 65, of Monument Lane is accused of being one of the two men that entered Jeanian Jewellers on Osmaston Road in the city on the morning of July 10, 1986.
It is not disputed that a raid took place that morning - or that one of the intruders held a shotgun to the head of Irene Hardy, the mother of store owner Ian Hardy.
The robbers left empty-handed after her husband Alan “very pluckily” fought them off, Nottingham Crown Court heard.
But fingerprint evidence found on three jewellery boxes disturbed in the raid - as well as his prints on a note, which prosecution dubbed a ‘robbers’ list’, left at the scene with the words ‘keys’, ‘gloves’ and ‘walkie talkies’ written on it - have linked Rhodes to the crime.
He was arrested in 2011 on another matter and his prints matched those found on a national database from the 1986 robbery.
Rhodes denies the charge and claims his prints came to be on the boxes because he traded in jewellery in the 1980s and had been into Jeanian himself.
In a brief summing up prosecutor Justin Widoger told jurors the case relied almost entirely on the finger marks.
He said: “It is important to look at the finding of the jewellery boxes together with the fact his fingerprints were on that piece of paper.
“It’s extraordinary to consider isn’t it, that these boxes that were fingerprinted were boxes that were disturbed in the robbery?”
“That the robber had been looking at precisely the same trays and precisely the same types of items that Mr Rhodes had been looking at some time before?”
Father of three and former coal board worker Rhodes told Nottingham Crown Court yesterday he had “definitely not” committed the crime and did not know who had.
He agreed with the prosecutor that it must be a coincidence that his fingerprint marks had been left on jewellery boxes, which were disturbed in the raid at the wholesalers in Osmaston Road, as well as the “robbers list”.
Mr Wigoder asked: “How do you say your fingerprints came to be on that piece of paper?”
Rhodes told the jury he had been involved in buying and selling jewellery at the time and had visited hundreds of houses asking for broken items.
He said: “I used to go in people’s houses with notebooks. I used to give them a receipt. They would keep the receipts. If I touched that piece of paper, someone could have torn a piece off it.”
He said he must have visited Jeanian Jewellers on one occasion to find out about the price of gold and silver items because he had intentions of setting up his own jewellery shop.
Mr Wigoder put to Rhodes: “What we have is the two robbers have the same jewellery boxes out you were looking at before it (the robbery) was done, by quite somewhat of a coincidence. These are robbers who you must have been in contact with unwittingly, because you have touched the piece of paper, on which is the robbers’ list.”
Rhodes responded: “Well coincidences happen.”
Brett Williamson for Rhodes said in mitigation that almost all the physical evidence acquired by police 26 years ago has been lost- meaning no DNA evidence could be taken from a suitcase left at the scene by the fleeing robbers, the walkie talkies used or a sample of blood found on the counter. He said the fingerprints on the jewellery boxes were ‘entirely consistent’ with having been handled by Rhodes as part of his business and that the length of time between the incident and the trial hampered Rhodes’ chance of a reasonable alibi - as he could not be expected to know where he was on a day 26 years ago.
He said: “This is more a case of the absence of evidence rather than the evidence itself.
“The original police file has been lost. That means that the team of detectives investigating this robbery, all the fruits of their labour have been lost.
“I don’t criticise the police, it was a long time ago- but we are left to consider the weight of the evidence that we have got.”