Police officer denies theft charge
THE head of Suffolk's anti-corruption squad has denied a police constable accusing of stealing money from a sick pensioner was “fitted up”.Detective Chief Inspector Jim Friend told Norwich Crown Court he was “affronted” by the suggestion the force had “set up” Pc David Clarke, who is on trial accused of theft.
By John Howard
THE head of Suffolk's anti-corruption squad has denied a police constable accusing of stealing money from a sick pensioner was “fitted up”.
Detective Chief Inspector Jim Friend told Norwich Crown Court he was “affronted” by the suggestion the force had “set up” Pc David Clarke, who is on trial accused of theft.
Clarke's defence lawyers asked Det Ch Insp Friend yesterday why a police constable with 23 years' service would throw away his career and pension to steal money that was less than one month's salary.
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Clarke also took the stand to protest his innocence of the charges, which relate to November last year.
The court has heard that Clarke was called to secure the home of an 89-year-old man in Stowmarket, who was hospitalised following a suspected heart attack.
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Following his visit, £1,100 of the old man's savings was found to be missing.
The police officer was then subjected to a sting operation and sent to investigate after cash was left in an apparently abandoned car.
A team from the Metropolitan Police hid in bushes and filmed as the constable examined the car and, after his investigation, the money disappeared.
Clarke was arrested and, when searched, the cash left in the car was found in his warrant card.
Clarke, 45, of Barking Road, Needham Market, denies two charges of theft and maintained in police interview that the money from the sting operation was his own.
The operation was set up at the instigation of Det Ch Insp Friend, an officer who currently serves as head of the anti-corruption unit in Suffolk, who dismissed any suggestion of the force “fitting up” Clarke.
“Why would I do this? I have got an unblemished record, I would not even contemplate doing that,” he said.
“We uphold the highest ethical standards and I am affronted by it [the suggestion], quite frankly.''
Clarke, who has no previous convictions or cautions, took to the stand yesterday to defend himself and asked he had taken the money on both occasions, he answered: “Absolutely not.”
During the trial, more evidence about Clarke's financial situation has emerged. The court was told he had fairly severe financial problems several years ago and had needed professional help to deal with it.
At the time of the sting, Clarke had debts of £18,000, which he was repaying at the rate of £500 a month from his monthly take-home salary of £1,650.
The court has also heard that Clarke, who has worked as a patrol officer in Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket, had suffered from stress and migraines.
The jury of six men and six women heard character references from neighbours and a friend, who described Clarke as a man of integrity, sincerity, loyalty, and who is dedicated to his family.
Judge Peter Jacobs is expected to sum the case up to the jury this morning and they will then retire to reach their decision.