A car thief who killed a Warwickshire farmer while stealing his Land Rover would still have been in prison at the time had he not been freed early from a sentence for similar offences, a court was told yesterday.
Ashley Squires (22), who pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Michael Boffey, had been released early from a three-anda-half year sentence for burglary offences committed at farms, Stephen Linehan QC, prosecuting, said.
If he had served the full sentence for the offences - which included one in which he drove a van at a farmer in Leicestershire - he would not have been freed until this September, Birmingham Crown Court was told.
Mr Boffey, aged 61, was struck by the Land Rover at the gates of his farm in Withybrook, near Nuneaton, moments after Ashley Squires had tried to run over a female farm worker.
Mr Linehan said Mr Boffey, a married father-of-three and grandfather-of-five who had dedicated his life to farming, died of massive head injuries after being knocked into the lane leading to his farm on August 20 last year.
The court was told that Ashley Squires and his brother Frederick Squires (24), who admitted conspiracy to steal motor vehicles and assisting an offender, had targeted at least seven other farms before and after the killing.
The brothers, of Styon Road, Leicester, were both jailed at Leicester Crown Court in July 2003 for burglary offences committed at farms.
Ashley Squires was jailed for three-and-a-half years, but was released on licence in February 2005. "Had he served the full term he would have been in prison until September this year," Mr Linehan observed.
Outlining the events of August 20, Mr Linehan described how the brothers criss-crossed the countryside in a Ford Mondeo looking for isolated farms to steal from.
When the serial offenders arrived at Grange Farm, Mr Boffey, who lived in nearby Burton Hastings, was inside an office chatting with his friend and employee, Christine Russell.
The defendants drove into the yard and noticed the keys were in the ignition of the Land Rover before driving away again.
Ashley Squires then entered the farm through a gap in a hedge and drove off in the vehicle.
Mr Boffey and Mrs Russell tried to stop the thief from escaping, but he drove straight at Mrs Russell. Mr Boffey had run towards the entrance to the farmyard and was knocked into the adjoining lane.
The two brothers then drove to Wolvey, where they abandoned the Land Rover.
The Mondeo was found burned out in Leicestershire, but pictures taken of the brothers inside the car by a suspicious resident at another farm they visited on August 20 were later obtained by the police.
Ashley Squires, who also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal, told police after his arrest that Mr Boffey had "suddenly" run into the path of the Land Rover.
The Crown accepted the younger brother's plea of not guilty to murder because no one other than the defendant witnessed the moment of impact.
To convince a jury that Ashley Squires was guilty of murder, the Crown would have to prove that he saw Mr Boffey in his path and deliberately drove at him.
Martyn Levett, defending Ashley Squires, said that the killing was an accident. Suggesting the thief may have caught Mr Boffey a glancing blow, Mr Levett said: "It's clear that he did not intend to run Mr Boffey down."
Both were remanded in custody and will be sentenced on Monday.