A care leaver has been cleared of trying to break into a weekly newspaper crime reporter’s garden shed, after telling a jury that he was the victim of mistaken identity.
Ryan Chapman, aged 19, who is still receiving support from social workers, was found not guilty by a jury at Exeter Crown Court of trying to burgle local journalist David Shepherd.
The Mid-Devon Gazette reporter spotted an intruder in his garden while he was at home in Tiverton on his day off, and told a jury he recognized him from crime stories he had written in the paper.
He told the jury he was “150 per cent certain” it was Chapman even though he had a clear view of his face for only a second.
He said he knew him from crime stories he has written about him and pictures of prolific offenders he had seen while visiting his local police station.
Chapman, aged 19, of South View, Tiverton, denied attempted burglary and was acquitted despite the jury have been told he had two previous convictions for burglaries in Tiverton, both dating from 2012.
During the two day case Mr Shepherd said he was at his home in Irene Way, Tiverton in the late morning of September 19 last year playing Grand Theft Auto when he spotted movement in his garden.
He said Chapman was wearing a hoodie but he recognized him immediately as he turned and fled. He gave chase and shouted to him that he knew his name but called the police when he lost him.
Chapman said he had not been anywhere near Irene Close on the day of the alleged offence and had probably been with his girlfriend or other friends in the centre of Tiverton.
He said he had never been into Mr Shepherd’s garden or tried to break into his shed, and that it must be a case of mistake identity.
Mr Tom Bradnock urged the jury to acquit on the basis that Mr Shepherd’s view of the intruder had been brief and fleeting, and it was easy to make an honest mistake from such a short glance.