Baldness drove man to robbery

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AN OLD BAILEY judge was moved to pity yesterday after being told that a balding young man took part in a highway robbery to pay for expensive hair transplant operations, writes Will Bennett.

Richard Bearsby, 25, and his friend Aaron Birch, 27, were both jailed after admitting helping to hijack a lorry taking 2,000 leather jackets worth more than pounds 100,000 from London's East End to Germany last November.

Birch, of The Cut, Southwark, south London, was jailed for two years for robbery and kidnap - but Bearsby escaped with a 12- month sentence after his mother told the judge he owed her pounds 4,500 for three transplant operations he had in America.

The court was told the two Turkish lorry drivers were flagged down on the A2 near Rotherhithe, Kent, by two men, each wearing parts of a single police uniform. The drivers were bound hand and foot, hooded and thrown into a van driven by Bearsby, a builder, and Birch, a disabled scaffolder.

There followed a high-speed chase by the police which ended when the kidnappers were arrested in a car park in Canterbury.

Yesterday in an extraordinary mitigation speech the defence counsel, Sheila Davies, said that Bearsby, of Windmill Walk, Southwark, had taken part in the crime to pay medical debts. His distraught mother, Sandra Mason, described how her son, badly affected by his premature baldness, had refused to leave his house unless it was to go to work. After the operations, which he had read about in a magazine article on hair loss, 'he did things he had not done for two-and-a-half years', she said.

Jailing Bearsby, Judge Denison said he had been 'tempted by the lure of easy money against a background of debt'.

Police are still looking for three other men involved in the robbery.