A HOUSESITTER was left gagged and tied to a banister for 18 hours as part of a £2.7m raid on a cider heir’s mansion, a court has heard.
The balaclava-clad gang broke into Esmond Bulmer’s sprawling Somerset estate before making off with a haul of priceless antiques – some of which were considered national treasures.
PA:Press Association/PA Images Esmond and Susie Bulmer were holidaying in Barbados during the raid
Bristol Crown Court heard how the thieves pushed terrified sitter Deborah Barnjum on to a bed and then tied her up.
Jurors heard how the gang threatened to douse her in bleach – and tied her up so tightly that she still suffers medical issues today.
Former Tory MP Mr Bulmer had hired family friend Deborah to watch over the £4m pile as he holidayed in Barbados with wife Susan.
Three of the 11 men in the dock were accused of carrying out the raid – and two of the defendants were builders who worked on a vast renovation in 2008.
Defendant Matthew Evans allegedly worked as a builder on the property before the heist
He worked on the mansion with co-defendant Liam Judge
Stephen Mooney, prosecuting, told how Ms Barnjum locked up the house dog 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.
“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.
Donald Maliska is accused of helping store the paintings
Jonathan Rees allegedly helped secure the reward for the return of the paintings
Ike Obiamiwi was charged with helping
Azhar Mir was accused of money laundering
“They then placed a blanket over her head and asked her if there was jewellery or money in the house.”
“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-to-day life,” the prosecutor said.
“After she had been released, she noticed that some paintings had been taken from the walls and that a safe was missing.
“In total, 15 paintings were removed as well as expensive jewellery and antiques. The total value of items taken exceeded £2 million.”
David Price was reportedly involved in the insurance scam
Nigel Blackburn was accused of laundering alongside Mir
Thomas Lynch was also on trial for handling the paintings
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, Birmingham, 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.