A scrap metal dealer from Croydon has been found guilty of taking in stolen metal at his scrap yard, including stolen crematorium plaques,that he then went on to cut up into small pieces in an attempt to disguise them.
Joseph Collier, 72 yrs (dob 02/09/1942) of Woodhall Drive, Dulwich, SE21, was found guilty yesterday, Wednesday, 1 October, at Croydon Crown Court of three counts of possession of criminal property, one count of disguising criminal property and one count of attempting to receive stolen goods.
Police raided Collier’s DSM Scrap Metal Yard in Bensham Lane, Croydon in May 2012 as part of a London-wide crackdown on metal theft. The scrap metal yard had been brought to the attention of police after Trading Standards officers from Croydon expressed their concern that stolen metal was being accepted there.
When police entered the scrap yard, officers found several bags and boxes containing hundreds of memorial plaques that had been stolen from cemeteries across the south-east region, with some even marked with SmartWater – a liquid that has a unique forensic ‘code’ that allows police to trace their origin. Many of the plaques had been cut up at the yard into small pieces in an attempt to disguise them.
Officers also discovered a large bronze dragon statue that had been stolen from an address in Teddington, as well as a statue of Jesus Christ, which had been stolen from Putney Vale Cemetery.
In order to identify where the plaques had been stolen from, officers from Croydon spent several hours painstakingly piecing them back together.
Collier was arrested and charged with offences the following day and was bailed pending his court appearance.
In the meantime, detectives set about trawling through CCTV footage at the yard, and found footage that showed Collier overseeing the cutting-up of the memorial plaques by his machines – plaques that he claimed at court, that he had no knowledge of.
In March 2013, suspicious that Collier was continuing to receive stolen goods whilst on bail and awaiting his trial, police contacted UK Power Networks, who assisted them with an undercover operation where an officer sold brand-new copper wiring to him, making it obvious to Collier that the goods were stolen as he was accepting it.
Sergeant George Shannon, based at Croydon police station, who led the investigation said:
“I can only describe Collier’s attitude throughout this whole process as brazen. He tried to deny any knowledge of receiving stolen items, but some of the memorial plaques even had the mud and wall plugs attached where they’d been prized from the graves. There was little doubt that he knew they were stolen and he had absolutely no regard for the law. His actions, in accepting stolen metal, have fuelled other criminal activity by thieves stealing metal to make a quick profit by selling it to unscrupulous scrap dealers like Collier.
“Metal theft has a huge impact on society – be it through delays on train networks where cabling has been stolen, or the emotional effects associated with the theft of memorial plaques. The majority of registered scrap metal dealers are operating correctly, but we will continue to target those who don’t and will bring the full force of the law against them.
“Now that heâ€™s been found guilty of these offences, we will certainly be considering further action against Collier under the Proceeds of Crime Act to look at confiscating any assets he has gained through his criminal activity.â€
Following a six-day trial at Croydon Crown court, the jury found Collier guilty of the above offences and he is due to be sentenced on 3 November.