An underworld fixer who boasted of protecting the Liverpool and England footballer Steven Gerrard from a "kneecapping" by a gangster disappeared from court yesterday – minutes before he was found guilty of robbery.
John Kinsella, 43, the central figure in a trial at Lincoln Crown Court, could not be found when the jury reconvened to deliver its verdict. When his solicitor rang him to ask his whereabouts, Kinsella said he was on the toilet but refused to say where.
In his absence, jurors found Kinsella and three accomplices guilty of stealing £41,000 of goods including crisps and Easter eggs from a haulage depot in Grantham. Kinsella was previously found guilty of dangerous driving in the same case.
It emerged that Kinsella, who has a previous conviction for armed robbery, was on bail during the trial and at one point was stopped as he attempted to board a flight to Malaga, Spain, with a one-way ticket. He claimed he was making a business trip.
On Friday, Judge John Machin said he did not want to take the chance of Kinsella absconding and remanded him in custody. He partly lifted the restriction at lunchtime yesterday, after which Kinsella apparently walked out of the court unchallenged. He was seen talking to two men before he vanished. The judge issued a warrant for Kinsella's arrest, warning that he and the other defendants faced lengthy sentences.
Last week, the jury was read a letter from Steven Gerrard's father Paul, in which he said he had "total respect" for Kinsella after he stopped a Liverpudlian gangster known as The Pyscho from threatening and blackmailing his son in 2001. Mr Gerrard said the midfielder's car was smashed up and he was chased home after training. The family contacted police and Liverpool FC provided extra security, but it was only after Kinsella spoke to The Psycho personally that the intimidation stopped, he added.
Mr Gerrard Snr wrote: "From that day until this ... we have never had any more threats from the Liverpool underworld. Steven and I have total respect for John for what he did for us."