Burnt out car

CCTV played a major role in convicting a woman from Chester who was charged and sentenced after faking a burglary and setting fire to her car as part of an elaborate insurance scam.

Hayley Barlow pleaded guilty to fraud, perverting the course of justice and possession of a class A drug at Chester Crown Court on Friday 21 December 2018 and was given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for a year. She was also ordered to adhere to a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement and pay a £115 victim surcharge.

The sorry story began with a report of a burglary at Barlow’s home. She called police in the early hours of the morning to say that she had woken up to discover her car keys had been taken from her home and the vehicle parked outside – a Volkswagen Golf – had been stolen.

Barlow then called her insurance company to report the theft and later made a £2,000 claim for her ‘stolen’ car.

The car was found later on the same night when firefighters were called to extinguish the flames. Although the vehicle was completely destroyed by the fire it held a secret which was revealed when, investigating the burglary claim, officers discovered that the car did not have an engine when it was set alight.

Denied engine was missing

Barlow had told police that the car was in working order when it was stolen and denied that it was missing its engine. She also claimed that she had fallen asleep at around 7pm on the night the car was ‘stolen’ and had not left her house before calling the police the following morning.

However, CCTV evidence uncovered by officers revealed that she had in fact arranged for a man she knew to tow the car away. She even sat in her car as it was towed before setting it alight using a canister of butane gas and returning home.

Barlow was arrested at her home a week later, where a search uncovered a wrap of cocaine. She admitted possessing the drug and after being presented with all the evidence against her, including CCTV footage of her in the car as it was being towed, she also confessed to lying to the police, reporting a burglary that did not happen, setting fire to her VW Golf and making a fraudulent insurance claim.

Barlow said that her actions were spurred by debts and the amount of money the car was costing her in repairs.

Potential environmental hazard

Detective Constable Nicky Edgell said: “Not only did Barlow report a burglary to the police that did not happen and attempt to defraud her insurance company with a £2,000 claim for a car that was not stolen, she caused a potential environmental and health hazard by setting fire to the vehicle.

“Due to the temperatures at the time of the offence and the dryness of the dense undergrowth along Green Lane, the fire spread a considerable distance from the vehicle and posed a risk to the fields and farms nearby.

“Thankfully firefighters were able to extinguish the fire before it could spread further, but many hours have been spent investigating Barlow’s burglary report and subsequently her offences, including obtaining witness accounts, photographing scenes, conducting interviews and examining phone reports, telecoms data and CCTV.

“Barlow had the opportunity to admit her fraudulent actions early on in the investigation but chose not to, continuing to lie until the evidence against her was overwhelming.”