HIBERNIAN striker Garry O’Connor wrote off his prized Ferrari after crashing into a deer, a court was told today.
The former Scottish internationalist is alleged to have told an Aviva Insurance rep that he was driving his red supercar in Gullane, East Lothian, on April 30, 2011, when it collided with the large animal.
But, the striker has been accused of trying to swindle £93,500 from the insurance company after it was alleged a friend of his, Darren Brock, caused the damage following a collision with a railway bridge at Meadowmill, East Lothian, two weeks earlier on April 14.
O’Connor, dressed in a smart charcoal suit and tie, looked tanned and relaxed as he maintained his not guilty plea to the insurance fraud charges at Haddington Sheriff Court today.
Mr Brock, who was cited to attend the court as a witness, failed to turn up, leading the Crown’s motion to have the trial adjourned to be accepted.
The court heard from three witnesses including two police officers, and Margaret Moore, a claims advisor with Aviva.
Mrs Moore told the court she took a telephone call on May 5 from a man claiming to be Mr O’Connor.
She said: “The person who called me said his name was Garry O’Connor. He gave me the policy number, the registration postcode and his date of birth.
“He said the car was a Ferrari, and that it was red.”
Suspicion then arose when the private registration number of the car given to her was found to belong to a Bentley O’Connor had previously owned, and that the colour of the Ferrari was registered as black instead of red.
It was said the striker had changed the colour of the luxury motor by covering it in a special red film after purchasing it.
Describing the alleged accident on April 30, she added: “He [told me] a deer had run out into the path of his vehicle, and he’d hit the deer as he swerved as he tried to avoid the deer.
“That was when he said he had crashed the vehicle. The date of the incident was April 30.
“He then told me the vehicle was at his home address.”
When asked by depute fiscal Alison Innes if she noticed anything unusual about the claim, Mrs Moore added: “When I put Mr O’Connor on hold just to verify with my manager we noticed that Mr O’Connor was quite young and was driving a Ferrari.
“We just Googled him and some things came to light that made us aware that we might have to treat the claim [differently].
“As it was a high level vehicle we would have to put it through to our technical team anyway, especially after some of the things we had seen on Google.”
Following the company’s concerns the claim was handed over to Kathryn Midgeley, a specialist insurance investigator with a company called Cunningham and Lyndsay.
Ms Midgeley told the court she had attempted to contact the Hibs player on several occasions in order to get a signed written statement from him about the incident.
But after finally agreeing to meet with her, O’Connor subsequently decided the meeting “wasn’t convenient” and cancelled.
It was then O’Connor informed Ms Midgeley he had withdrawn his claim to Aviva Insurance for £93,500, and now wanted to collect the car himself and have the damage repaired privately.
Following the Ferrari being found abandoned on the morning of April 14 two police officers attended O’Connor’s home in the £1m Archerfield Estate, in Dirleton.
The officers said most of their questions were met with a ‘no comment’ statement from O’Connor, and he was subsequently interviewed in the presence of his solicitor at Dalkeith Police Station on July 28, 2011.
Again, most of the questions regarding the initial collision were answered with a ‘no comment’ statement.
The fraud trial was then adjourned following the non-appearance of witness Darren Brock, who it is alleged, was driving the Ferrari F430 Spider F1 when it collided with the railway bridge on 14 April last year.
Depute fiscal Alison Innes then told the court: “At this stage I would like to adjourn the matter, and, in the first instance, to grant a warrant for the witness [Mr Brock] who has been properly and personally cited.”
And though O’Connor’s defence agent opposed the motion, Sheriff Peter Braid said: “It’s a serious charge, and the Crown are entitled to take the view that Mr Brock is an essential witness.
“And I think in the interests of justice do require they are given the opportunity to get him here, especially as he’s been cited personally.
“I will, firstly, grant a motion to adjourn the trial, and, secondly, to grant a warrant for Darren Brock.”
The trial will recommence on June 8.