ALBURY man William Alex Gardner wiped away tears yesterday — found not guilty of kidnapping.
A Wagga District Court jury took two hours after a five-day trial to acquit Gardner, 32, of kidnapping then 19-year-old Steine Boland from a Wagga unit on July 6, 2012.
After the jury returned its verdict, a clearly relieved Gardner nodded then sat in the dock.
He composed himself before wiping away tears with a tissue and then sipping water as the jury left the court.
Within minutes, Gardner was freed from the dock. He shook hands with his instructing solicitor, Rob Hussey, and thanked his barrister, Michael King.
The Crown had alleged Gardner, with three others, kidnapped Mr Boland from a Bruce Street unit with the intention of getting money from him.
The jury heard Gardner had driven from Albury to Wagga with the intention of returning with Mr Boland so he could repay Gardner’s partner, Kerry Ann Oats.
Mr Boland had stayed with Ms Oats for about a week before the alleged kidnapping and there were claims he either owed her $10 or had stolen $120 the night before driving to Wagga.
The Crown alleged Gardner had forced Mr Boland to get into the car, while Gardner said Mr Boland had voluntarily got into the vehicle.
There was no dispute Mr Boland was punched and elbowed while in the back seat of the car on the drive south, but Mr King told the jury Gardner was driving the car and knew nothing of the attack.