One of the top jockeys in Britain yesterday stood in the witness box at the Old Bailey and described what took place during the only known encounter between Kieren Fallon and Miles Rodgers. The answer, according to Darryll Holland, is not very much at all.
Fallon, the six-times champion jockey, and Rodgers are among six men charged with conspiracy to defraud customers of the online betting exchange, Betfair. They all deny the allegations against them.
The prosecution has identified just one contact between Rodgers, who is accused of orchestrating the scam, and Fallon, who rode 17 of the 27 horses under review. The others were ridden by Darren Williams and Fergal Lynch, whose brother, Shaun, was observed by surveillance officers accompanying Rodgers to Leicester racecourse on the evening of 18 May 2004.
Jonathan Caplan QC, the prosecution counsel, asked Holland how he, Fallon and Seb Sanders came to share a lift from Rodgers and Shaun Lynch, after racing, to a nearby airfield.
Holland told the jury that he had agreed to give Fallon and Sanders the two other passenger seats on his private plane, on their way home to Newmarket. Having earlier flown up from an afternoon meeting at Goodwood, Holland had engaged the taxi driver who had driven to the racecourse from the airfield to pick them up afterwards.
"I'm trying to look for this driver," Holland said. "I'd paid him already, but he never showed up. So I was a bit annoyed about that. I said to either Seb or Kieren that he had not turned up. I looked around and Kieren said we'd got a lift."
Holland said that the three jockeys went together and got into the back of a Mercedes. In the front were two men he did not recognise, previously identified by the prosecution as Rodgers driving, and Shaun Lynch in the passenger seat. The police surveillance log recorded the journey to the airfield as nine minutes.
Caplan asked whether there had been any conversation. "No conversation at all, really," Holland replied. "There might have been a 'left here, right here'." Asked to describe the atmosphere, Holland observed: "Normally you'd be introduced: 'This is Mick, Joe, whatever.' But there was no conversation. I thought it was a bit strange. But nobody spoke to me, and I didn't speak to them."
On arrival at the airfield, Holland headed towards the plane. Where was Sanders? "I think he was upsides me." Where was Fallon? "When I looked behind he was further back." What was he doing? "He was talking to the two fellas." For how long? "A matter of seconds." When did Fallon follow them to the plane? "Literally straight away. I said: 'Come on, mate, we have to get back.' There's a light issue with the sunset. We only had 35 to 40 minutes to get back."
Standing with his hands in his pockets, Holland faced one more question from Caplan. Had he formed the impression that Fallon knew either of the other two men? He replied that he could not say for certain. "But you're taught from an early age not to get into cars with strangers," he remarked, prompting amusement. "I assume he knew them."
The jury has previously been told that Fallon knew both the Lynch brothers since childhood.
Christopher Sallon QC, representing Shaun Lynch, suggested that Fallon had called out to Holland and Sanders as they headed towards the plane, to see whether they had time for a drink. Holland acknowledged that Fallon may have done so, but if so he would have needed reminding that they were pressed for time.
Sallon also asked whether the duration of Fallon's conversation was consistent with a brief exchange of thanks and farewell. Holland agreed that it was.
The case was adjourned until this morning.