Irish lorry driver held in ú5m theft case makes visits plea

 

Dutch judges will be asked this morning to lift visiting restrictions in the case of an Irish lorry-driver held in a high security prison charged in connection with a ú5 million computer parts robbery from his vehicle.

Mr Thomas Massey, who is charged together with another Irishman, the alleged crime boss Mr George (The Penguin) Mitchell, is co-operating with the investigation, according to his lawyer.

Mr Massey's wife is understood to be in Holland. She has travelled to the town of Hoorn, about 30 miles north of Amsterdam, where her husband is held in solitary confinement in a high-security prison wing. But so far, she has been denied any visits.

A spokesman for the central office of the Dutch Public Prosecution Department, Mr Wim de Bruin, explained yesterday: "Due to the serious nature of this case, Mr Massey and all the other detainees are denied visits, and phone calls and letters they receive are first read by judges of the district court here. Our aim is to prevent any contact or information passing between them."

Mr Massey was arrested following a joint Irish/Dutch investigation on March 5th. For at least 10 years he has been employed as an international driver by Walsh Western, the leading haulage business.

A special police task force went into action as a gang of six stripped the truck of its cargo of computer parts, valued at ú5 million, at a deserted industrial estate close to Amsterdam's airport.

It was part of a cross-border police operation and, after arriving at the French port of Calais, Mr Massey's truck was followed northwards into Holland.

Under Dutch embezzlement laws, the driver has been charged with conspiracy to steal the load.

In an interview yesterday, his lawyer, Mr Jan van Vulpen, said: "My client told police his own life and that of his family were threatened and he only became involved in the plot under extreme pressure."

The lawyer claims that Mr Massey was first approached to assist in the robbery of one of the trucks he was driving late last year and at that stage said he would have nothing to do with any such scheme.

Mr van Vulpen said that later, during interrogation, his client confessed that he was offered ú40,000 to get involved and the temptation just proved too great.

"This man has been a respectable hard-working person and has never been in any trouble before," he said.

Two written requests to judges at Haarlem District Court asking for visiting rights for Mr Massey's wife are expected to be considered later today.

The trial of the driver and Mr Mitchell, with three others accused of the robbery, will take up to three months to prepare. They are all being held in separate jails on a 30-day continuing custody order.