THE WIFE of a notorious Hampshire car dealer has been cleared of income tax evasion.

In a hearing which lasted less than a minute, prosecutors at Southampton Crown Court said they were offering no evidence against beauty therapist Loraine Burbage.

The judge, Nicholas Rowland, formally entered a verdict of not guilty and Mrs Burbage walked free from court.

It comes after her husband, Richard Burbage, was jailed for six years in 2017 for conning hundreds of people out of thousands of pounds.

Burbage was found guilty of five counts of fraudulent trading following a Daily Echo investigation sparked by complaints from angry ex-customers who were sold faulty cars and denied refunds.

Trading Standards officials launched their own inquiry after receiving a huge number of complaints about Burbage and his associate, Stanley Rudgley, who was also jailed.

The unrelated case against Mrs Burbage had been listed for a three-day trial.

Had it gone ahead she would have faced an allegation that she was involved in the evasion of income tax totalling £12,605 in the 2013-2014 financial year. The charge, which she denied, related to Ophelia's Boutique at Botley Mills.

But when Mrs Burbage arrived at court yesterday she was allowed to sit in the public gallery instead of standing in the dock.

James Marsland, appearing on behalf of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, said the prosecution was offering no evidence against her because there was no realistic prospect of a conviction.

Daily Echo:

He said the decision was based on the findings of a report received from an expert witness last week.

Speaking outside court Mrs Burbage, 48, of Poplar Way in Hedge End, said she was relieved her ordeal was over but declined to make any further comment.

The investigation into the activities of Richard Burbage began in 2013.

During the subsequent court case jurors at Salisbury Crown Court heard that customers were confronted by “pushy” salesmen whose “lies and misrepresentations” amounted to fraud.

Burbage, 44, also of Poplar Way, pleaded not guilty but was convicted of five offences of fraudulent trading.