A FATHER has told a court how he spent thousands of pounds on a car he thought had 54,000 miles on the clock when in reality it had covered more than 139,000.

Mark Evans was giving evidence against a gang of Hampshire car dealers accused of taking more than one million miles off vehicle odometers before selling the cars to unsuspecting members of the public.

The first two witnesses in the six-week trial took to the stand yesterday to tell Salisbury Crown Court about their encounters with the group who worked at firms Hampshire Vehicle Sales, Woolston Car Supermarket, Service 4 Life and Deltaflag.

The defendants included 44-year-old businessman Richard Burbage and his associates.

Mr Evans told the court he found a silver, five-door, 2005 Ford Focus with around 54,500 miles on the clock through eBay.

After viewings, checks and being presented with various documents by employees at Service 4 Life Ltd – based at Botley Mills, he paid £3,495 in cash for the vehicle in June 2015 as a present for his son.

On the first day of using the car his son noticed a number of things wrong with it. Mr Evans decided to do his own online checks and discovered the car had actually done more than 139,000 miles, the court heard.

Mr Evans said when he first saw the car on June 20, Burbage showed him an HPI check, on his phone, and a MOT certificate confirming the mileage.

The father said he tested the car and found a few problems which Burbage agreed to fix.

Mr Evans said he paid a £300 deposit and returned and picked up the car from a man called Stan days later. But when driving home he found there were still problems so went back and was told by salesmen someone would go to his house to fix the remaining issues.

After his son took the car for a drive, they found even more problems, the court heard, which prompted Mr Evans to do an online check where he discovered the mileage.

Defending, Mark Florida-James suggested all the contact Mr Evans had after the initial visit was with Stan until Burbage went to collect the car with the full refund, albeit two weeks later.

Another customer, Jaqueline Palmer, told the jury how she noticed there was a problem with the service book for a 2005-reg car that she was in the process of buying from Burbage.

She said she viewed a £3,000 Ford Focus, with 55,000 miles on the clock, at Botley Mills, in May, 2014.

At the time Burbage, of Poplar Way, Southampton, could not find the vehicle’s paperwork but promised Miss Palmer she could have it at a later date so put a £200 deposit down, the court heard.

Miss Palmer did an online check which revealed the car had done 14,000 miles, nine years ago.

When she returned she was given a service book with dates in it from 2002 – even though it was a 2005-reg car. The court heard she decided she wanted her money back but a cheque never materialised.

Burbage was co-accused with Ryan Overton, 22, of St Peter’s Close, Southampton and Darryl Warren, 35, of Lower Derby Road, Portsmouth. They all deny five charges of fraudulent trading.

Stan Rudgley, who was a director of two of the companies, pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading at an earlier hearing.

The trial continues.