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July 2, 2004

Thieves jailed on lip reader's evidence

From: This is London, UK - Jul 2, 2004

By Matheus Sanchez, Evening Standard

Two thieves who left a wealthy businessman for dead were jailed thanks to a lip-reading expert.

In one of the first cases of its kind, the expert, who is deaf, observed video footage of the pair in prison and uncovered an incriminating conversation that became central to their conviction.

Robert Oliver, 24, and Rae Johnson, 50, have been jailed for 13 and nearly 12 years respectively after they stabbed a 41-year-old father-of-two in the spleen and stomach and slashed him across the face.

Gerald Priechenfried, a 6ft rugby player, disturbed the men as they tried to snatch the keys to his Range Rover through the letterbox of his home in East Molesey, Surrey, in February.

He chased them down the street but was struck with a knife.

Mr Priechenfried, who spent 36 hours unconscious after the attack, was not able to reliably identify the men, so police turned to the more unusual approach.

"Bugged" jail conversations are not admissible in court, so they used video footage from a visit by one of the accused, then on bail, to his partner in crime, who was in jail for other offences.

Mr Priechenfried said: "They got a very sound conviction using quite unique evidence. These guys have caused misery to dozens of people."

©2004 Associated New Media