Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text SWINDON NEWS to 80360 or email us
Police hunt for Mr Woodz fraud suspect
8:00am Monday 25th February 2013 in News
THE trial of a furniture store boss accused of defrauding dozens of customers will go ahead in his absence next month if he does not answer bail.
A warrant was issued for the arrest of 46-year-old Christopher Baines in August last year after he failed to turn up for a hearing at Swindon Crown Court.
He has yet to be tracked down and police are again appealing for the public to contact them with any knowledge of his whereabouts.
Baines is accused of a string of offences relating to the time he was running the Mr Woodz store, in the Brunel Centre, although he denies any wrongdoing.
He had been due to face trial last summer after pleading not guilty to 52 counts of fraud relating to his business dealings, in which it is alleged he cheated dozens of customers out of a total of £44,000.
Although last year a judge ordered police to carry out checks with the Mexican consulate after it was claimed Baines was involved in a car crash in Mexico, police believe he is more likely to be in the East Anglia area, and Colchester in particular.
Clive Read, of the Wiltshire Police Fraud Unit, said: “He is still outstanding for the fraud matters and we believe he is still hanging loose in the East Anglia area.
“We have even had MPs writing to us as their constituents have been asking about the status of the case and there are a lot of people still waiting.
“We have tried to reach him through his family and associates and those attempts have failed.
“A trial is set to begin on the March 18 and will go ahead in his absence.”
One alleged victim, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “I’m glad the trial will go ahead either way and hopefully it will draw an end to it.”
Last year a court heard the alleged accident in Mexico left Baines, of Hyde, Greater Manchester, seriously ill and with a broken leg and in May. A judge was told that he was expected to be released from the Central American Hospital in late June or early July.
It was said he would have to undergo two weeks of physiotherapy, then a period of convalescence before he would be able to travel.
But he had not returned by mid-August, when the court was told he had been suffering from blood clots as a result of the fractured femur and treatment, and was still not fit to fly.
Detectives are keen to trace him before the trial goes ahead at Swindon Crown Court on March 18. He is described as a white male, about 6ft tall, of a heavy build with brown hair and blue eyes.
Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact Clive Read in the Fraud Unit at Gablecross Police Station on 101 or Crimestoppers, where information can be left anonymously, on 0800 555 111.