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Robber fled in court lunch break

17 April 08 16:02 GMT

The planning for John Kinsella's haulage firm robbery was "meticulous", according to the judge.

But his escape - minutes before being found guilty at Lincoln Crown Court - may have been more improvised.

The 43-year-old, of Kirkdale, Liverpool, was allowed to wander the court grounds during a lunch break and simply walked out into the city.

Now an arrest warrant has been issued for the missing man, last heard of making a phone call from a toilet.

Kinsella's case made national headlines when a letter from footballer Steven Gerrard's father was read out as part of the defence.

This described Kinsella's work as a "fixer", who helped out when Gerrard became a victim of intimidation by a Liverpool criminal.

He was on trial for a March 2006 lorry robbery in Lincolnshire, during which £40,000 worth of goods had been taken. Kinsella had fled from police driving at 130 mph.

After his arrest, Kinsella was allowed bail, although he was stopped last July at Liverpool's John Lennon Airport with a one-way ticket to Malaga, Spain.

He claimed he was on a business trip.

He was also on bail during the early stages of the trial and attended court every day necessary.

But on 11 March, Judge John Machin said that he did not want to take the chance of Kinsella absconding at the weekend and denied him bail.

However, on the following Monday he granted Kinsella bail at court, provided he remained in the grounds of Lincoln Crown Court, which is itself in the grounds of Lincoln Castle.

Shortly before the 1300 BST lunch adjournment the jury found him guilty of dangerous driving.

Kinsella, who was dressed in a dark green suit and a black collared T-shirt, was then given bail for the lunch break by Judge Machin on the same conditions.

About 30 minutes later he was seen talking to two men before walking out of the grounds unchallenged.

'He has disappeared'

After lunch, when the jury found him guilty of robbery, Kinsella was nowhere to be seen.

His solicitor was asked to give an explanation, at which point he said he had phoned his client who claimed he was in a toilet but would not say where.

The judge issued a warrant for Kinsella's arrest, telling the court: "Mr Kinsella has decided that to surrender to bail is an optional activity and has disappeared."

He was later sentenced to 14 years in jail in his absence.

A spokesman for Her Majesty's Court Service said that the granting of bail was an independent judicial decision based on the specific circumstances of each case.

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