A former outlaw motorcycle club member has been jailed for three-and-a-half years for stealing a classic Holden Torana muscle car from Leeton last year.
Luke Martin Clarke, 36, formerly of Leeton, faced the District Court earlier this month for sentencing after pleading guilty to stealing a motor vehicle aggravated by being committed in the company of a then 26-year-old man.
On April 27 last year a Leeton couple locked their 1977 Holden LX Torana A9X sedan, worth at least $80,000, in a free-standing shed before departing on a holiday.
In the early hours of April 30, Clarke and his co-offender stole the Torana and soon after a friend of the owners, whom they asked to keep an eye on the property, noticed signs of forced entry to the shed.
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District Court Judge Sean Grant described the theft as "well planned" but the two offenders created a trail of evidence, starting with leaving the shed door open and off its rails.
Clarke and his co-offender rented a U-Haul trailer at a Leeton service station the day before using a driver's licence and debit card belonging to Clarke's partner, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
After being stolen, the distinctive vehicle was spotted on security camera footage being towed through Leeton, Temora and Yass, at times by a red Mazda hatchback registered to Clarke's partner.
One witness told police that Torana was secured by a ratchet strap over the boot, which was known to damage classic cars during transport.
Clarke's co-offender had a mobile phone that generated location data between Leeton and Sydney and was used to take several photos of the Torana.
Prosecutors said a similar vehicle had now been found at Taree with its identification plate cut out.
"It is necessary for acid etching to take place to retrieve the engine block number. The police are 99 per cent certain they have recovered the [Torana]," Judge Grant said.
Clarke moved to Leeton to start a new life after spending six years as part of the Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle club, where he witnessed and was subject to numerous acts of violence.
Clarke told a psychologist he was under the influence of alcohol and suffering from Major Depressive Disorder at the time of the offence, and was lured back to crime due to financial strain from the pandemic.
Clarke's barrister said the offence lacked sophistication but Judge Grant disagreed, pointing out that it took pre-planning and Clarke had time to reflect on what he was doing.
Clarke will be eligible for parole in March 2024 after serving two years and four months.
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