Handyman working at Malton home took car keys without permission and crashed Audi into bridge

A handyman doing work on a woman’s home took her car without permission and ploughed it into a bridge, a court heard.

Friday, 20th August 2021, 9:11 am
Updated Friday, 20th August 2021, 9:14 am

Richard Townley, 30, was fitting door locks at the woman’s home in Malton but when she went into another room, he took the keys to her Audi and drove off.

A short time later, Townley called police to say he had crashed the car on County Bridge, said prosecutor Kelly Sherif.

Police turned up at the scene and found the abandoned and damaged Audi, she added.

“He realised he wasn’t going to get away with this," said Townley's solicitor.

Townley, of Riverside View, Norton, was arrested and charged with aggravated vehicle-taking, criminal damage and driving without a licence and insurance. He admitted all offences and appeared for sentence at York Crown Court on Thursday.

The bizarre incident happened on April 10, when Townley went to the named woman’s home to fit the door locks. They were friends at the time.

When she went into another room, Townley was still beavering away on his DIY job but when she returned, he had vanished. She then noticed the keys to her Audi had gone, as had her car from the driveway.

York Crown Court, where Townley was sentenced.

“She called (Townley’s) phone but there was no reply,” said Ms Sherif.

“She did not give him permission (to take the Audi) and she knew he was not insured. She was aware he did not hold a licence as he had medical issues and his licence had been revoked.”

The woman called police and was told that Townley had already contacted them to say he had damaged her car. She went to the scene with officers where they found damage to the body of the vehicle and cigarette burns on the upholstery inside.

Townley told police he had driven over County Bridge and turned the car sharply, whereupon he “collided with the bridge on both the front and rear of the car”.

Expensive phone

He said he then parked the car in Winston Court, Norton, at which point he saw a mobile phone inside the vehicle and threw it out. The woman’s expensive phone was damaged.

“He (said he) returned the following day to retrieve the phone and placed it on the doorstep of (the victim),” said Ms Sherif.

She said Townley’s licence had been revoked because he had epilepsy, for which he was taking medication.

He had six previous convictions for offences including aggravated vehicle-taking, driving without insurance, damaging property and battery in 2015 which resulted in a suspended prison sentence.

Neil Cutte, for Townley, said Townley could “offer no rational or reasonable explanation for (taking the woman’s car)”.

“He panicked, parked the car up and went back to his home, then contacted police and told them where the car was,” added Mr Cutte.

“He realised he wasn’t going to get away with this.”

He said that Townley had mental-health problems.

Judge Sean Morris handed Townley a 15-month suspended jail sentence and four-month curfew which prohibits him leaving his home between 7pm and 5am.

Townley was also banned from driving for a year and ordered to engage in a 20-day rehabilitation programme.