Michael Hood admitted that he’d touched a white BMW used in the 90-second raid on top jewellery store Hamilton & Inches in Edinburgh’s George Street last year.
And he confessed he had been inside the blue Honda CR-V in which the armed raiders made good their escape. But he claimed he’d twice met Kurtis Beech – who drove the cars from Manchester to Edinburgh before the robbery last June – because a friend gave Beech his phone number to buy cannabis from him.
The first time, he said they “shared a joint” inside the Honda, parked outside local shops in Royston Mains, where Hood lives. The second time, he said Beech was driving the 3-Series BMW when he arrived to buy more “green” and they completed the drug deal through the driver’s window.
He said the encounters explained why matches for his DNA had been found on the handbrake of the Honda and on the driver’s door handle of the BMW.
Hood also insisted an eyewitness, who later identified him as being the getaway driver from police photographs and videos, was “mistaken”.
He told the jury: “I wasn’t involved in this robbery. I was definitely just unlucky. It was a huge co-incidence. I’ve been lying on remand for ten months saying that to myself: what’s the chances?”
Hood has lodged a special defence of alibi, and yesterday his mother Anne Hood, 60, gave evidence that she was with her son, his ex-partner and her granddaughter at the time the robbers were making their escape. She said a photo of the youngster on a new motorised scooter showing him with a Greggs bag and dated June 6, the day of the raid, had been taken by Hood’s ex partner.
In a dramatic move on Tuesday, the Crown dropped eight charges against Hood, including the possession of cannabis and motoring offences. Hood, who denied all the charges, was formally acquitted by Judge Lord Glennie.
He remains on trial for allegedly carrying out the armed robbery. He denies assaulting staff with his face masked, threatening them with machetes and axes and smashing open display cabinets to rob them of watches and jewellery.
The judge told the jury he had also acquitted co-accused Kurtis Beech after the prosecution withdrew six charges against him. It has been agreed in evidence that Beech, 29, from Salford, Manchester, drove two stolen cars with false number plates from England to Edinburgh in the days leading up to the raid.
The trial continues.