Hessle businessman who fought off van raider walks free after GBH case collapses
A RESPECTED businessman who fought off a thief breaking into his van has walked free from court after a 12-month fight to clear his name.
The case against Steve Coupland collapsed after serial criminal Matthew Higgins admitted he had "got what he deserved" and refused to testify.
Mr Coupland, 54, had confronted Higgins, who had 71 previous convictions, when he caught him breaking into his work van outside his home.
He had been charged with grievous bodily harm with intent and risked a prison sentence.
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But the case against him collapsed when the thief refused to give evidence.
Now, Mr Coupland, of Astral Way, Hessle, has spoken of his relief after the charges were dropped.
"I have worked hard all my life and have never done anything wrong," he said. "I was just protecting my property.
"I'm over the moon now it's finally over. This case has wasted a lot of time and money. I was facing years in prison, but I was determined to fight it."
Higgins, who had a string of convictions for drugs and theft, lost part of his ear when Mr Coupland confronted him after the thief tried to break into his van.
It was the 14th time the van had been targeted by thieves.
Mr Coupland, who runs a cleaning company, was charged with grievous bodily harm with intent after the attack was considered "way beyond self-defence".
Now, all charges have been dropped after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) offered no evidence against him.
Mr Coupland was declared a hero after he tried in vain to save the life of Michael Barnett during the 2007 floods.
He has run his own business Coupland Cleaning Services Ltd, based in Hessle, for 29 years, providing cleaning services to commercial and domestic premises.
He was at his home in Astral Way, Hessle, in September last year when he heard someone trying to break into his van late at night.
His van had been broken into by thieves 13 times before and he ran out of his home to find Higgins using a crow bar to force his way inside the vehicle.
Mr Coupland said: "I shouted at him and he hit me with a crowbar. I tried to get it off him and we were fighting. I pushed him over and into a pillar and I think that's how he injured himself."
Police arrested Mr Coupland and he was kept in a cell overnight.
Two weeks later, Higgins, 43, called Mr Coupland to apologise, saying: "I deserve what I got."
In 1989, Higgins was jailed for 14 years for stabbing a solicitor during an armed robbery in Anlaby.
Since the attack on Mr Coupland's van, Higgins, of Wilson Street, Anlaby, has been jailed for 21 months for drugs, blackmail and weapon offences.
He was also given a three-month sentence, suspended for 12 months, for attempted theft by trying to break into the van.
Charged with causing grievous bodily harm, Mr Coupland was determined to prove his innocence at a trial and refused to admit any wrongdoing, even when the CPS told him they would accept guilty pleas to a lesser offence.
The charges were finally dropped on the day his trial was due to start when Higgins refused to give evidence against him, despite telling police: "I know I was wrong...but he went way too far. Every time I tried to get up, I was hit over the head. I even shouted, 'police, help'."
A spokesman for the CPS said: "We have discontinued the case after the victim refused to give evidence."
After the charges against him were dropped, Mr Coupland said he would defend his property again.
He said: "If the same thing happened again I would still confront them.
"I heard he had previously stabbed someone, but I didn't think about my own safety. I was just fed up of people breaking into my van."