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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 20:30 GMT
Boat skipper denies Dome robbery
Millennium Dome
Five men are accused of plotting the diamond heist
A man allegedly recruited to help a gang escape with millions of pounds worth of diamonds from the Millennium Dome has told a court he never agreed to steal anything.

Boat skipper Kevin Meredith said he was asked to do a favour for co-accused William Cockran after he was unable to repay a 1,400 debt he owed him.

Mr Meredith, 34, of Brighton, East Sussex, denies both conspiring to rob and conspiring to steal.

Four other men - Aldo Ciarrocchi, 32, of Bermondsey, south-east London, together with Raymond Betson, 40, of Chatham, Kent, William Cockran, 49, from Catford, south-east London, and Robert Adams, 57, of no fixed address - all deny conspiracy to rob.

'Threat'

But the four have admitted the lesser charge of conspiring to steal.

On Tuesday, Mr Meredith told the Old Bailey that Mr Cockran told him he could repay his debt by driving a speedboat for about 10 to 15 minutes.

"He said I could do him a favour," he told the court.

"When I said I was not so sure, he said he needed to know now.

"He did not say why. He said: 'Remember your wife and kids'. I was shocked. I took it as a threat. It was the way it came out," the jury heard.

When questioned in court, Mr Meredith accepted he might have been mistaken in thinking it was a threat.

Drive boat

He added that he had no idea where he was to drive the boat or in what connection.

Mr Meredith told the court: "I was told to wait at the jetty until I got a further order. From there I was to go to the beach and then pick them up."

When he asked what it was about, Mr Meredith said he was told he need not know.

He told the court he had never agreed to a robbery or to steal from the Dome.

The prosecution alleges that the gang intended to snatch the diamonds by smashing their way in on an earthmover and escaping across the River Thames by speedboat.

The trial continues.


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