Bulmers cider magnates lured alleged art thieves with fake advert in antiques magazine, court hears

The family behind Bulmers cider tracked down the alleged art thieves who burgled their home by posting a fake advert in an antiques magazine six years after the crime, a court has heard. 

Millions of pounds of artwork and antiques were stolen from the home of Esmond and Susie Bulmer, members of the Bulmers cider family, in Bruton, Somerset in 2009.

But it was not until a fake advert was placed in an antiques magazine in 2015 that the perpetrators were found.

Bristol Crown Court heard a group of burglars with intimate knowledge of the property — known as the Pavilions — ransacked it on the evening of March 20 whilst the couple were on holiday. 

Following the raid insurance firm Hiscox paid the Bulmers a «substantial amount» of money, but both the couple and the company wished to recover the paintings, estimated to be worth up to £2 million.

One of the pieces allegedly stolen in the break-in

Credit:
The History Collection/Alamy Stock Photo

In December 2009, a man called Richard Ellis became involved in tracking down the artworks for the family.

With the assistance of him and the Bulmer family, an advert was placed in the Antiques Trade Gazette in February 2015 offering a £50,000 reward for the paintings.

It was at this time Jonathan Rees came forward, claiming to be a «go between» to secure the reward, stating he had «ex-SAS members» who would recover the artwork, the court heard.

He is accused of persuading Hiscox to increase the reward to £175,000 and personally returning the paintings to a secure location in Bermondsey, London, in August 2015.

Hiscox allegedly paid the money into an account for a company called Lois Jewellery.

Matthew Evans, one of the builders who worked on the site and allegedly planted the seed that it was a «very soft and lucrative target»

Credit:
Ben Birchall/PA

It was then distributed among those involved in the insurance fraud and burglary, it is claimed.

Following the break in 11 people are on trial, but they are not believed to be the only people involved in the robbery. 

It is believed that the family were investing a lot of money in their property at the time leading up to the burglary. 

Two of the defendants, Liam Judge and Matthew Evans, were builders who worked on the site and allegedly planted the seed that it was a «very soft and lucrative target».

The alleged group of burglars targeted the house whilst the Bulmers were on holiday, however they had hired Deborah Barnjum to house-sit and look after the family dog named Echo.

Another of the pieces that went missing

Credit:
The History Collection/Alamy Stock Photo

Stephen Mooney, prosecuting, said Ms Barnjum secured the house on the evening of March 20 and had a bath before letting Echo out through a side door at about 10pm.

«As she did so she saw three shadowy figures in the doorway as if waiting for this very moment,» he told the jury.

They tied her up and placing a blanket over her head. The group then spent the following 45 minutes going through the house, selecting items to take with them — including one of Mr Bulmer’s cars.

Mr Mooney said the ties were «brutally, unnecessarily and cruelly tight» and Ms Barnjum was left «terrified» as the burglary took place around her.

Following the burglary, the paintings were allegedly taken to Birmingham and stored in the garage of Thomas Lynch. They remained here until 2015, jurors heard.

Liam Judge also previously worked on the home 

Credit:
Ben Birchall/PA

Skinder Ali, 39, of no fixed address, Liam Judge, 42, and Matthew Evans, 41, both of Tuffley, Gloucestershire, deny conspiracy to commit burglary.

Ali, Mark Regan, 46, of no fixed address, Thomas Lynch, 43, of Small Heath, Birmingam, Donald Maliska, 63, of Dartford, David Price, 53, of Virginia Court, London, and Ike Obiamiwe, 55, of Ealing, London, deny conspiracy to handle stolen goods, namely 15 paintings.

Maliska, Price, Obiamwie and Jonathan Rees, 62, of Weybridge, Surrey, deny conspiracy to defraud James Esmond Bulmer and Hiscox Insurance.

Nigel Blackburn, 60, of Hockley, Birmingham, and Azhar Mir, 65, of Solihull, deny entering into or becoming concerned in a money-laundering arrangement.

Rees denies doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.

The trial continues. 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/13/bulmers-cider-magnates-lured-alleged-art-thieves-fake-advert/

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