Shoplifting conviction for former gangster Dennis Stafford
A FORMER gangster who was sent to prison for murder has been convicted of shoplifting from his local Co-operative store.
Dennis Stafford, also known as Scott, of Stanhope Castle, County Durham, was convicted of three counts of theft by a jury at Durham Crown Court.
The jury heard he entered the store in Stanhope village on three different days in August last year, took meats and cheese from a chiller cabinet and left the shop without paying for them.
He was filmed by the store’s CCTV cameras taking the items out of a shop basket and putting them into a carrier bag while standing in the pet food aisle.
When Stafford, 76, who was convicted in 1967 of murdering Angus Sibbett in a gangland killing, gave evidence, he claimed that he had placed the alleged stolen items on other shelves as he walked around the store.
But the jury took only one hour to find him guilty after a two-day trial.
The judge, Justice John Evans, handed him a two-year conditional discharge after hearing a pre-sentence probation report that he had suffered recent ill-health, and was already on licence and under supervision for the murder of Mr Sibbett.
During the trial, Stafford denied stealing frying steak, pork and lamb chops, and cheese, saying he regularly put items into the plastic bag because he was buying those goods either for his son or a neighbour and wanted to keep them separate from his shopping.
However, store manager Denise Brough told the jury she had watched Stafford on CCTV and on August 6, 13 and 14 saw him take items from shelves and put them in the plastic bag.
She said none of the items she saw being put in the plastic bag were found later on store shelves.
When this was put to him by prosecutor Paul Abrahams, Stafford said: “As for the pork chops, I’m Jewish so I don’t eat pork. I did eat it briefly while in the army, but it’s just conditioning, I don’t eat it. I never took anything from that store.
“If I’m going to shoplift, I’m I going to stand in front of the store’s biggest camera in the pet food aisle? I don’t need to shoplift. It’s ridiculous.” Defence barrister Paul Smith asked Stafford why he went to the pet food aisle each time to take the items out of the basket and put them into the bag.
Stafford said: “Because of my past experience, I know they won’t have checked the sell-by-date while it’s on the shelves. It’s a routine and I get to that area and start checking the items and I’ll put them back on shelves.”
Stafford received a life sentence for killing Mr Sibbett in a murder that is said to have inspired cult film Get Carter. Originally from London’s East End, he is said to have grown up with the Krays.
Mr Sibbett’s body was found in his Jaguar car under Pesspool Bridge in South Hetton, County Durham, on January 5, 1967. He was a cash collector for the fruit machine business of Stafford’s then friend Vince Landa and it was said he was murdered because he was suspected of skimming off money.
Stafford and Landa’s brother, Michael Luvaglio, were convicted of the killing and served 12 years, but have always protested their innocence.
After the trial in Durham yesterday, Stafford said: “My appeal against the murder conviction is still going ahead in the Europe Court because we did not get a fair trial.”