Fire chief “didn’t think it was wrong” to bid at auction he organized, court said

0
8

Fire chief ‘didn’t think it was wrong’ to place winning bid of £ 500 for one of his own brigade’s Land Rover Defenders at auction he was running, court said .

Stewart Edgar is accused of fraudulently purchasing the vehicle, which was sold after reaching the end of its useful life, using a third party company to make the offer on his behalf.

Birmingham Crown Court has heard an allegation that Edgar also dishonestly turned down a rival offer of £ 8,250 for the 17-year-old Defender vehicle, after telling a colleague he had always wanted a red Land Rover for marriage of his daughter.

Prosecutors have claimed that Edgar, 53, the former Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service chief, with £ 120,000 a year, abused his post to commit the fraud in 2018.

Stewart Edgar arrives at Birmingham Crown Court (Jacob King / PA)

The court had previously heard how Edgar texted in April 2018 to a contact at a third-party company, who then placed the winning Land Rover bid on his behalf, saying the arrangement would be ‘cleaner’ and would end to any “FAITH stupid thing”. ”.

Edgar told the court he was currently taking “a lot of medication” for mental health issues related to his long service as a firefighter, adding that he had seen “hundreds of dead bodies” and suffered a “breakdown”.

Jurors learned that he began to experience “flashbacks” within “18-24 months” after assuming the lead role in the Gloucestershire Brigade, which he joined in 2014, and was not “Not in the right frame of mind” for the position at the time the sale took place.

In cross-examination Tuesday, Robin Shellard, prosecutor, asked Edgar if he had considered a “conflict of interest”.

Crown attorney asked, “You saw no conflict of interest in telephoning a supplier to get them to bid for you on your behalf, in a tendering process in which one were you going to award the winning to the bidder? “

Edgar replied, “At this point I didn’t think it was wrong.

“But I finally took responsibility and quit my job because I felt like I had made a serious error in judgment.”

Stewart Edgar denies the charge (Jacob King / PA)
Stewart Edgar denies the charge (Jacob King / PA)

He added: “At the time, I thought it was OK, and no conflict of interest.”

Edgar was also asked how he gave different accounts of how the sale took place to various senior colleagues, once the matter had been internally investigated.

He replied, “I did a fair bit of thinking and worked with my psychologist on these episodes, and my psychologist said it’s okay when you’re in some kind of flight mode not to say the truth. “

Mr Shellard then asked, “It’s not about not telling the truth – what you said was an elaborate and deliberate lie, you see, which is different from not telling the truth?”

Edgar replied, “When you experience trauma, even the most lucid of minds become a maze.

“I was everywhere, my mind was everywhere, and I wasn’t thinking clearly and giving clear answers.”

Edgar also denied knowing how a coworker, who knew his general manager was making a bid, was able to tell the only other bidder they lost, half an hour before the sale deadline.

The jury heard that the auction bids were what are called sealed bids, in envelopes, meaning the winner should not have been known to all parties until after the bids had opened, after 16 time.

Stewart Edgar (Jacob King / AP)
Stewart Edgar (Jacob King / AP)

When asked how his colleague could have known that Edgar’s auction was the winning auction before the deadline, Edgar replied, “I have no idea. “

Edgar told jurors he had been diagnosed with depression since his resignation – a decision resulting from an internal investigation into the Land Rover sale.

He said in a conversation with fire chiefs, the chief executive “gave him an ultimatum: resign or be sacked.”

“I lost my job, my reputation, everything,” he added.

The Defender had started life as one of the brigade’s water rescue vehicles, before a commercial standard loan, when Edgar learned in March 2018 that it was sold.

The former firefighter said he asked his fleet manager if he was “within the rules” for bidding, saying he was told it was “possible”.

He said: “I thought I was getting good professional advice.”

Edgar, of Braehead Drive, Carnoustie, Angus, denies a single count of abuse of position fraud allegedly committed between April 1 and May 1, 2018.