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Sarah Wellgreen murder trial: CCTV disputed by ex partner's defence team

It is impossible to say for sure if a car captured on CCTV driving down dark lanes on the night a mum-of-five went missing was that of her ex partner who stands accused of murdering her, a court has heard.

Cab driver Ben Lacomba denies killing Sarah Wellgreen, then 46, in October last year and disposing of her body in the area near their New Ash Green home on the night of October 9-10 last year.

CCTV allegedly shows Ben Lacomba's car on the night Sarah Wellgreen disappeared

While Lacomba claims he stayed at home on the night in question prosecutors allege CCTV images captured on roads leading away from the village show his car driving south in the early hours.

It’s then alleged to have been captured driving back along the same route two hours later, having driven to an unknown location.

In an effort to prove the vehicle caught on camera did belong to 39-year-old Lacomba, the father of three of Sarah's children, police drove his distinctive taxi down the same lanes.

But expert witness Clive Evans, a forensic image investigator, was unable to say conclusively that the car in the CCTV was indeed Lacomba’s car, a red Vauxhall Zafira, with All Night Cars written on the side.

He said the vehicle seen driving past CCTV at Littlefields in Plaxdale Green Road, and Lacomba’s taxi showed similarities in overall size and shape, the windows, the position of the number plate and brake lights, which lent support to the idea it was the same make and model, and the two vehicles had similar spokes on the wheels.

However certain key features of Lacomba’s taxi couldn’t be seen in the CCTV, including the aerial, the sign writing and the taxi badge, but he added “given the limitations of the imagery... and along with the effects of motion blur, I consider I wouldn’t necessarily expect to observe those features if they were present.”

Lacomba's car was allegedly captured on CCTV at Littlefields in Plaxdale Green Road on the night Sarah Wellgreen disappeard in October 2018. The image on the left is from the night itself, while the image on the right is from a police reconstruction using Lacomba's car in Febuary 2019.(18492927)
Lacomba's car was allegedly captured on CCTV at Littlefields in Plaxdale Green Road on the night Sarah Wellgreen disappeard in October 2018. The image on the left is from the night itself, while the image on the right is from a police reconstruction using Lacomba's car in Febuary 2019.(18492927)

While the sign writing wasn’t seen clearly in the CCTV a lighter area on the door could be seen.

“Were there any irreconcilable differences?” asked prosecutor Alison Morgan QC. Mr Evans replied: “no”.

“Was there anything to suggest they were not the same vehicle?” Miss Morgan added.

“No” said Mr Evans.

But his statements were interrogated by defence barrister Rebecca Trowler QC.

Ben Lacomba denies murder. Picture: Jim Bennett
Ben Lacomba denies murder. Picture: Jim Bennett

“If you see something which is only found on a Vauxhall Zafira you would no doubt be saying there’s powerful support for the vehicle being a Vauxhall Zafira, but you didn’t. You’re not saying you can be sure this is a Vauxhall Zafira.

“You said there were no irreconcilable differences - you can’t say it’s not the same car but equally you can’t say it is the same car.”

A reconstruction was carried out in similar weather conditions at a similar time of night in February this year.

Detective Constable James Greenidge gave evidence on how he and another police officer had taken Lacomba’s car back and forth on the alleged route.

They then collected CCTV footage from their journey, which was compared with the footage from the night Sarah disappeared.

Ms Morgan also asked him: “during that period did you see much traffic on the road?”

He replied: “In that whole period the only vehicle we saw was a milk van.”

Sarah Wellgreen went missing last October
Sarah Wellgreen went missing last October

The trial continues.

Read more: Accused allegedly turned CCTV off for murder practice runs

Read more: Ex's disappeared for two hours on night mum vanished, court hears

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