Rugby man jailed after crashing car on Christmas Day and claiming burglars took it

Mitchell Gemmell.
Mitchell Gemmell.

A Rugby man ran off across a field wearing a seasonal jumper after driving ‘stupidly fast’ and crashing his car into a tree on a traffic island on Christmas Day.

Then on Boxing Day Mitchell Gemmell contacted the police to report he had just got home and found he had been burgled and his car had been taken, for which he then made an insurance claim.

But his attempts to avoid the consequences of the crash and to profit from the insurance claim backfired on him when he appeared at Warwick Crown Court.

Gemmell (31) of Longstock Road, Rugby, was jailed for six months after pleading guilty to charges of doing acts intended to pervert the course of justice and fraud.

Prosecutor Jonathan Veasey-Pugh said that on Christmas Day 2016 a woman was driving in Rugby when an Audi A4 came up behind her ‘stupidly fast’ and kept trying to overtake her.

It eventually did so and sped out of sight, but a short time later she came across the aftermath of a crash.

The Audi had ploughed into a tree on the traffic island at the junction of Hillmorton Lane and Lilbourne Road, and she saw a man in a Christmas jumper running from the scene into a nearby field.

On Boxing Day Gemmell contacted the police to report a burglary, saying he had got home from visiting family to discover a rear window had been smashed and his car keys take.

He claimed his £16,000 car had been stolen from outside, and on New Year’s Eve he contacted his insurance company Esure to make a claim, during which he was given ‘the standard warnings’ about the consequences of making a false claim.

The police had checked the airbag in the Audi for DNA, which revealed the profiles of Gemmell and another man who was investigated – but he was able to show he was out of the country over Christmas.

Meanwhile, Esure had been prepared to settle Gemmell’s claim and had sent out a cheque to him for £8,561 and one to Black Horse Finance for £7,820.

But they became aware there was a problem with Gemmell’s account in time to stop both cheques before they were paid.

One of Gemmell’s neighbours said that on Boxing Day he had heard shouts from the driveway of Gemmell’s home – which Mr Veasey-Pugh suggested was part of his ruse to suggest he had got home and discovered a burglary.

And when the police spoke to Gemmell’s girlfriend and his sister, they both declined to make statements supporting his claim that he had been visiting family at the time of the crash.

And Deputy Judge Richard Griffith-Jones observed: “There are two motives here, to avoid the consequences of the crash and to profit from an insurance claim.”

Toby Long, defending, said Gemmell, who has had to make a £9,000 contribution to his legal aid, had worked for a civil engineering business for nine years, and his employment would be at risk if he was jailed.

He said others would also suffer, because his partner is on maternity leave and his mother, who was diagnosed with cancer last year, had recently been admitted to hospital with pneumonia.

But Judge Griffith-Jones told Gemmell: “I am afraid this is a serious case, because it’s not just something you did in panic on the spur of the moment.

“There was time before you began to make the false allegation of burglary, and there was persistence in the drive to claim the money from the insurance company.

“I bear in mind you have not been previously convicted, and that you have family responsibilities and family difficulties, but I’m afraid the only person to blame for the position they are now in is you.

“It is important that anyone understands that perverting the course of justice is a serious crime. It can lead to the risk of other people being in trouble, and to the investing of police resources, precious as they are.

“There has to be a prison sentence, but I am going to ensure it is a short one.”