Hunt for furniture fraud suspect spreads to Mexico
DETECTIVES have been ordered by a judge to carry out background checks with the Mexican consulate on a former furniture shop boss who is facing trial on a series of fraud charges.
A warrant was issued for the arrest of 46-year-old Christopher Baines on August 30 after he failed to turn up for a hearing at Swindon Crown Court. But he has yet to be tracked down and police are asking the public to contact them if they have 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 Plaza at the Brunel Centre. He denies any wrongdoing.
Earlier this year he was on holiday in Mexico when he was involved in a car crash which left him seriously ill and with a broken leg.
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.
He hadn’t 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.
Baines had been due to face trial earlier this summer after pleading not guilty to 52 counts of fraud relating to his business dealings.
It is alleged he cheated dozens of customers of the shop out of a total of £44,000 while trading out of the town centre location, which closed down last year.
After pleading not guilty to all of the charges when he appeared before a judge in December last year, the case was adjourned for a trial.
Although he gave the court his address as Hyde, Greater Manchester, it is believed he has many contacts in the Swindon area as well as in Essex.
He is described as a white male, approximately 6ft tall, of a heavy build with brown hair and blue eyes.
Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact Clive Reed in the Fraud Unit at Gablecross Police Station on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.