A WARRANT has been issued for the arrest of former Rangers owner Craig Whyte after he failed to turn up for the trial of his two former housekeepers who are accused of stealing from his Scottish estate.
Whyte had been due to appear as a witness for the prosecution at Inverness Sheriff Court yesterday but instead he was hundreds of miles away in France having claimed to have been told his presence was unnecessary.
Sheriff Margaret Neilson issued the warrant for the millionaire which means he could now be arrested by the Border Agency when he arrives back in Britain.
Mr Whyte had been personally served with a witness citation last month after the Crown revealed that their difficulties in tracking him down had been resolved.
He was due to appear by 9.45am but by the time the accused pair Terence Horan, 53, and Jane Hagan, 50, were called into the dock, there was still no sign of him.
The pair deny stealing a large array of items from Castle Grant, Mr Whyte’s estate near Granton on Spey, between 1 June and 7 September 2012 where they worked.
Both are alleged to have stolen items including a quad bike, quantities of coins and Dutch guilders, a silver photograph frame, a hip flask and cups, three sets of cufflinks, a fuel card, a telescope and case.
They are also charged with stealing other items including three pens, two lamps, headed notepaper, five chairs and a table, a chest, a compass, two wooden bowls, a photograph album, a trunk, a planter, two jumpers, a bin, a wheel, two heaters, a bag of electrical items, ornaments and a clay trap
Fiscal depute Kelly Mitchell told Sheriff Margaret Neilson that all her witnesses but one – Craig Whyte - had appeared, including Whyte’s estranged wife, Kim.
It then emerged that Mrs Whyte had phoned her husband who had told her he was in France. Ms Mitchell spoke to Mr Whyte who claimed he had been countermanded as a witness and had received a letter. However, Ms Mitchell told the Sheriff this was incorrect, explaining that Mr Whyte had been countermanded for an earlier trial date.
She said: “He had been postally cited and personally cited six weeks ago before today. He had previously indicated a willingness to appear. Given that we have an unfinished trial today, it is unlikely this trial will commence and I am seeking an adjournment to another date due to lack of court time.
“However, I am still seeking a warrant for Mr Whyte to prevent this from happening again. He knew he was due in court today.”
The Sheriff asked the fiscal if it was appropriate for her to grant a warrant when the motion was for an adjournment due to lack of court time and not the failure of an essential witness to turn up.
Ms Mitchell said her initial motion was because of the unfinished trial, but that she would make a new motion due to the failure of Whyte to turn up and in the public interest due to the high value of the items in the charge.
Both defence laywers, Willie Young and Eilidh Macdonald opposed the motion, saying that the Crown case stood or fell upon Mr Whyte’s evidence.
Sheriff Neilson rejected the Crown motion to adjourn due to lack of court time but granted the motion because of the lack of an essential Crown witness “with reluctance”.
She also granted the warrant for Mr Whyte’s arrest. A new intermediate diet was fixed for 13 August and trial rescheduled for 12 September.
Yesterday both of the accused had their bail continued and refused to comment afterwards.