The cider house heist

Bul­mers heir’s ex-builders on trial af­ter raiders stole art and jew­ellery worth £2m

Daily Mail - - News - By Tom Payne

A TER­RI­FIED hous­esit­ter was bound and hooded by bur­glars in a £2mil­lion raid at the home of a lead­ing mem­ber of the Bul­mers cider dy­nasty, a jury heard yes­ter­day.

Deborah Barn­jum was man­han­dled and threat­ened by three men who stole paint­ings, jew­ellery and an­tiques, the court was told.

They left her tied to a ban­is­ter. She was not found un­til her sis­ter came to the house the fol­low­ing morn­ing.

Eleven men are ac­cused over the ‘so­phis­ti­cated heist’ on the coun­try home of for­mer Tory MP Es­mond Bul­mer and his wife Susie.

They in­clude two builders who had worked at the prop­erty. Stephen Mooney, prose­cut­ing at Bris­tol Crown Court, said that on the even­ing of the raid in March 2009, Mrs Barn­jum locked the house in Bru­ton, Som­er­set, and had a bath be­fore let­ting the fam­ily dog Echo out at about 10pm. ‘As she did so she saw three shad­owy fig­ures in the door­way as if wait­ing for this very mo­ment,’ he said.

‘One man stepped for­ward and phys­i­cally car­ried her into the house. He said: “If you keep quiet I won’t hurt you, down on the bed, down on the bed”. She pre­sented no threat, a lone woman in an iso­lated house and yet her hands were se­cured with plas­tic ties. They then placed a blan­ket over her head and asked her if there was jew­ellery or money in the house.’ The ties were ‘bru­tally, un­nec­es­sar­ily and cru­elly tight’, he said.

The bur­glars spent 45 min­utes search­ing the house for valu­ables. Be­fore they fled, tak­ing Mr Bul­mer’s Mercedes, they promised to leave word for some­one to go to the house to res­cue Mrs Barn­jum.

‘They didn’t keep that prom­ise and so she spent the night cold, fright­ened, tied up to a ban­is­ter and hooded,’ Mr Mooney said. ‘The ties had been ap­plied in such a way that they in­ter­fered with her cir­cu­la­tion and as a re­sult of be­ing left overnight she has in­juries that still im­pact her day-to­day life.

‘ In to­tal, 15 paint­ings were re­moved as well as ex­pen­sive jew­ellery and an­tiques. The to­tal value of items taken ex­ceeded £2mil­lion.’ The art­works, all but one of which have been re­cov­ered, in­cluded Ap­ple Blos­som, painted in 1899 by Sir Ge­orge Clausen. The gang also stole a pair of sil­ver can­de­labra and a safe con­tain­ing jew­ellery worth £1mil­lion, jurors were told. Mr Bul­mer, 83, who has a long­stand­ing in­ter­est in fine arts and an­tiques, is a for­mer chair­man of Bul­mers and was a Tory MP be­tween 1974 and 1987. The firm, founded by two brothers in 1887, grew to be the big­gest cider-maker in the world, with brands in­clud­ing Strong­bow. It was sold in 2003, netting the fam­ily £84mil­lion. The court heard how the plan to raid the home of Mr Bul­mer and his 76-year-old wife was drawn up by Liam Judge and Matthew Evans, who had done build­ing work there months ear­lier. Mr Mooney said: ‘This was a so­phis­ti­cated op­er­a­tion only un­cov­ered by de­tailed po­lice ex­am­i­na­tion. Al­though there are 11 de­fen­dants in dock, the pros­e­cu­tion does not for one minute sug­gest that these were the only in­di­vid­u­als in­volved. We ac­knowl­edge there were clearly oth­ers who have man­aged to avoid be­ing ap­pre­hended.

Judge, 41, Evans, 40, and Skinder Ali, 38, are al­leged to have car­ried out the raid. Ali and five oth­ers are ac­cused of stor­ing the 15 stolen art­works in a garage. Five are ac­cused of try­ing to de­fraud in­suer­ers which of­fered a re­ward for the re­turn of the paint­ings.

Two of the men are ac­cused of money laun­der­ing. The 11 deny the charges against them.

The trial con­tin­ues.

‘A so­phis­ti­cated op­er­a­tion’

Tar­geted: Es­mond and Susie Bul­mer at their man­sion in Som­er­set

Re­cov­ered: Ap­ple Blos­som by Clausen

Ac­cused: Liam Judge and Matthew Evans

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