Police officers wolfed down pizzas at a crime scene without realising they had been ordered by the very suspects they had been hunting, a court heard.
They bought the two deep pan pizzas at a reduced price from a delivery boy after the gang who ordered them refused to answer the door.
The Old Bailey heard the food had been ordered by the gang from the Hertfordshire house they were holding a drug dealer hostage, in April.
The victim was beaten and bound to a chair and battered across the face with frying pans.
During his ordeal the gang ordered a Domino’s pizza but before the food arrived the victim escaped through a window and raised the alarm at a nearby building site.
Police arrived to find the delivery boy and then ‘ate the evidence’ outside the house.
The following day another officer found the boxes in the boot of the police car.
‘The address was written on the pizza box, together with the time, 5.13pm, and a mobile telephone number,’ said prosecutor Sally Meaking-McLeod.
The empty boxes were seized and produced in court as an exhibit for the jury to examine.
Opening the case, Ms Meaking-McLeod said, ‘Because the pizza delivery man could not deliver the pizzas, the police who were at the scene did not realise the significant potential of this evidence so they offered to buy the pizzas at a reduced rate for themselves and ate them, putting the boxes in the back of a police car.
‘It was only subsequently that the pizza boxes were found in the back of a police car and a phone number was found on one of them and it came to light that the officers had eaten the evidence.’
The court heard the attackers, including Anthony Costello, 42, and Darren Barker, 35, fled before the delivery boy and police arrived.
They are alleged to have stolen the victim’s $10,000 watch, $400 cash, his mobile phone and keys to his Mercedes CLK parked outside. The Mercedes was found abandoned in Borehamwood in May.
The attack was arranged by a drug dealer, known only as CJ, who believed the victim was moving into his territory in Hertford and Watford, The court heard that Costello claimed the man was his crack cocaine and heroin dealer.
Costello, of Baldock, and Barker, of Watford, deny false imprisonment, robbery, grievous bodily harm and assault. Barker further denies theft of the Mercedes and perverting the course of justice.
Carl Tomlin, 26, of Peterborough, admitted false imprisonment, causing grievous bodily harm and taking a car.
The trial continues.