A man accused of trying to kill a Warwickshire car salesman by running him over in a van he had arranged to test drive has died in prison, a judge has heard.
John Tuff had pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to the attempted murder of salesman David Wagstaff, who suffered horrific injuries during the incident in Wolvey in January.
He has also denied an alternative charge of inflicting grievous bodily harm on Mr Wagstaff with intent to cause him serious injury.
In addition Tuff (36) of Bisley Street, Leicester, but who is also said to have lived in Market Harborough, has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to steal motor vehicles between December 27 last year and January 17.
The charges followed an incident after Mr Wagstaff, a car salesman at a dealership in Rugby, was contacted by someone asking to take a VW Transporter van for a test drive.
It was arranged that Mr Wagstaff, who was said to live in north Warwickshire, would pick up the potential customer from the Pheasant pub in Withybrook.
He did so, and then drove the blue Transporter to Galliford Try Construction’s premises off Leicester Road, Wolvey, where it was said Mr Wagstaff got out to swap seats.
It was alleged that after moving across into the driver’s seat, Tuff locked the van doors, preventing the salesman getting back in, and drove off.
Mr Wagstaff was struck by the van and dragged along the road for about ten yards, suffering severe injuries to his body, head, back and leg.
Tuff and co-defendant Matthew Barker (44) of Hagley Road, Birmingham, who faces the conspiracy charge, were due to stand trial together at the court next month.
But at a further hearing prosecutor Matthew Brook told Judge Sylvia de Bertodano: “Mr Tuff has passed away while on remand, and there is an interim death certificate.”
Mr Brook explained that Tuff had died in HMP Hewell, near Redditch, on November 14, although ‘the precise cause of death has not yet been ascertained.’
So Judge de Bertodano ordered that the proceedings in relation to Tuff should be stopped.
His barrister Barnaby Shaw had explained that Tuff’s defence was to have been that he accepted causing the injuries to Mr Wagstaff, but ‘didn’t mean to run him over.’
In relation to Barker, who has also been said to have lived at an address in Market Harborough, Mr Brook said he had refused to get on the transport to attend court from HMP Oakwood.
His barrister Christopher Evans remarked: “It is unfortunate he hasn’t attended. It’s not the first time.
“I can only assume he doesn’t want to come because it’s not a prison that services this court, so he wouldn’t go back there after the hearing.”
Judge de Bertodano, who pointed out that Barker ‘was never on the more serious charge, only the conspiracy,’ adjourned his case for a further hearing to take place, with him appearing via a video link from the prison.