Belfast Telegraph

Serial thief convicted of trying to rob Andy Carroll's £22,000 watch

A serial thief has been convicted of attempting to rob Premier League striker Andy Carroll of his £22,000 wristwatch in a drive-by heist.

Motorbike-riding Jack O'Brien, 22, swooped on the England player's Jeep Wrangler near Hainault, north-east London, as he was driving home from West Ham's training ground last year.

Carroll told the trial he believed O'Brien had a gun when he pulled alongside him at a set of traffic lights and demanded the expensive timepiece on November 2.

The 28-year-old was then pursued by two suspects on motorbikes as he tried to escape, forcing him onto the wrong side of the road as he drove back to the training ground, which had security staff.

Convicted burglar O'Brien, of Navarre Gardens, Romford, east London, was found guilty of attempted robbery by a jury of six men and six women after six hours and 25 minutes of deliberations at Basildon Crown Court.

O'Brien, who wore an untucked white shirt with a pink tie, did not display any emotion as the verdict was read out.

Judge John Lodge is expected to sentence O'Brien on Friday morning for both his attempt on Carroll and a string of other offences.

The defendant was found hiding below a mattress at a property in Dagenham, east London, when police went to arrest him 10 days after the botched robbery.

The 6ft 4in striker told the court he had been "scared" when the motorcycle driver approached his camouflage green vehicle and said: "Nice watch."

He had initially thought the rider, who was wearing a crash helmet with a visor up, was boxer Kevin Mitchell pulling up for a chat.

But as he went to drive off, the man said: "Give me your watch."

Carroll told the court he then did a U-turn, but was pursued by two motorbike drivers.

In a panicked 999 call played to the jury, Carroll told emergency responders: "There's two motorbikes, one's behind me pulling out a gun, I don't know what to do."

He added that he had "probably just hit about 10 cars" during his getaway.

No firearm was found by police and the second driver has not been located.

A motorcycle helmet, Ducati jacket and a Suzuki motorbike were all seized, which police believed O'Brien used in the attempt on Mr Carroll.

DNA matching the defendant's was found on the helmet and jacket.

It was heard that similar items had been used for a string of burglaries by O'Brien between October and November last year, in which cash and jewellery were taken.

O'Brien previously admitted carrying out five other burglaries and three attempted burglaries between October and November 2016.

Carroll twice gave evidence during the trial - once in person and a second time via video-link, having been whisked from training to Barkingside Magistrates' Court by police escort.

He told the court he had seen the robber for about 10 seconds and later identified O'Brien in a police identity parade.

O'Brien claimed he was not the biker in question and, while he had used the motorbike gear for other crimes, he had not on that occasion.

His account was rejected by jurors.

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