Tow-truck driver says acquittal feels 'hollow'

It took a jury just 20 minutes to acquit an Auckland tow-truck driver accused of taking an impounded car on an unauthorised high-speed spin.

Michael Donald Woods admitted driving the car after towing it back to his yard for the police in 2012.

Mr Woods, who told APNZ he now goes by the name Michael Holliday, said he took the Nissan Silvia on the road to make sure he hadn't damaged its suspension when he hoisted it on his trailer.

He defended a charge of unlawfully taking a motor vehicle on the basis that he had not known he did not have permission to drive the car.

After his two-day trial finished in the Auckland District Court yesterday, Mr Woods said the acquittal felt "hollow".

In August 2012, the NZ Transport Agency suspended his licence to operate as a tow-truck driver because it ruled he he wasn't a "fit and proper" person, he said.

Mr Woods said the prosecution had been a "set up" and he felt let down by what happened to him.

When asked who had set him up, the 51-year-old said: "It's not hard to put it together".

Now the trial was over, Mr Woods said he wanted to focus on patching up his relationship with his family, which had been affected by the charge.

The speed of the jury's verdict surprised him and it was still "sinking in" last night.

"I'd just sat down to read my petrol-head magazine and was about to have a coffee and they came back."

Early on April 15, 2012, Mr Woods was called by police to pick up the impounded Silvia from Mt Wellington.

The Crown initially said he took the car on a "joyride" along streets surrounding his Pakuranga firm, East City Towing, but prosecutor Leo Farmer did not use that term in his closing argument yesterday.

Mr Farmer said Mr Woods was caught out by a GPS tracking device in the impounded car, called a Snitch.

Its data showed the car hit speeds of 113 kmh and 105 kmh at times on a short trip.

When police spoke to him, Mr Woods initially said he followed a carload full of boyracers hanging around his yard, with the Silvia still on the back of his truck. He then changed his story and said he drove the Silvia to make sure it wasn't damaged.

"If you thought you'd damaged the car, why would you drive it up and down the road at speed? Why wouldn't you just look at it?" Mr Farmer said.

Defence lawyer Jeremy Bioletti told the jury Mr Woods did not handle the police interview well, but said people lied for various reasons.

"I just ask you to see if from the point of view of the person themselves," Mr Bioletti said. "That person may see part of his business crumbling before their eyes, or other consequences."

Mr Bioletti said while the Silvia's owner, Erin Ashe, subsequently said Mr Woods did not have permission to drive the car outside the tow yard, he didn't know that at the time.

- By James Ellingham of APNZ

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