After a 13-week trial, a gang who conspired to steal millions of pounds’ worth of jewellery before tying up and terrorising victims in their own homes, have been sentenced. Here Legal Affairs Correspondent Rebecca Sherdley looks back on how the case began with a daring heist at at Nottinghamshire art gallery.
Snow fell as raiders in boiler suits and helmets crept through freezing fields by the Harley Gallery, on the ducal estate of Welbeck Abbey, north Nottinghamshire, and smashed their way in. It took just eight minutes for them to get their hands on The Portland Tiara and an associated brooch, with a combined value of approximately £3,750,000.
The gems, stolen on November 20, 2018, have never been recovered. The swift and shocking heist, though, was just the tip of the iceberg. As one Nottinghamshire Police team focused on this crime alone, the investigation began to gather pace, and turned over other incriminating lines of inquiry no one would ever have imagined.
Like something out of a blockbuster movie, police following the trail of the missing diamonds, and ended up in the Capital on a lead, but uncovered a whole lot more. They had their eyes on one particular jewellers in Holborn's Hatton Garden - host to the most extensive list of jewellery stores in London - where defendants Tevfik Guccuk and Sercan Evsin, both jewellers, worked.
Prosecutor Michael Brady QC had told jurors the items stolen during the burglary were passed to professional handlers Guccuk and Evsin, who were tasked with selling them. The court heard it is thought the tiara and brooch were taken out of the country by Guccuk to his native Turkey after they were dropped off at an “ostensibly legitimate jewellery business”, Paris Jewels, in Hatton Garden, London, in November 2018.
Guccuk, who had papers to confirm he was a trader, told jurors his trip to Istanbul was for a rescheduled wedding and that he travels to the city regularly for business. It is understood his flight was from London Heathrow Airport, and that the 41-year-old would have taken the items in his hand luggage.
From the rear office of the shop where he worked, officers found a double-layered plastic bag package containing numerous watches and items of jewellery. They were not from the Harley Gallery though; the majority of the items had been taken in a robbery at the home of former Tottenham and Derby midfielder, Tom Huddlestone, when his wife, Joanna Dixon, was home alone with their infant son on May 1, 2019, in Caythorpe.
The bag contained a stash of jewellery and an FA Cup runners-up medal stolen the day before from the home of Huddlestone. The officers established that the goods had only been delivered to the shop around 15 minutes before they arrived.
Police began linking similar violent crimes.
Detective Inspector Gayle Hart picks up the story: "So in terms of the Caythorpe tie-up robbery (at the home of Huddlestone), that actually occurred on May 1, 2019, and the investigation team were down in London, so we were planning to execute our warrant on May 2, and indeed that's what we did.
"We actually went into the jewellery shop just after 11 o'clock that morning, and we've since learned that the property from that burglary in Caythorpe had clearly been delivered in the early hours of that morning, immediately after that burglary. Then we recovered it in the shop probably only 15 minutes after it had landed in the shop.
"The police then walked through the door and executed the warrant. So some good fortune, definitely".
The Harley Gallery case was still under investigation when another violent crime happened, this time in Willoughby-on-the-Wolds.
The jury heard about a conspiracy to burgle on March 11, 2019, during the 28 minutes in which the offence was committed at that home, a farm where the residents were out, approximately £500,000 worth of property; mainly designer bags and jewellery were stolen, including wedding rings and many items of sentimental value.
Then, at the end of March 2019, there was an awful robbery, in Carlton. The owner there had arrived home to be confronted by a group of 6/7 people, all similarly dressed in dark clothing, wearing balaclavas and black gloves.
The householder was bundled through the kitchen door, placed face down on the floor, where his hands and feet were bound with cable ties, and one of the men punched him in the face and he was beaten. His wife heard a disturbance and came downstairs.
DI Hart said: "We had the case of the victim at Carlton where he was sort of set upon by a group of masked males. He was restrained in tie wraps, had his ear cut. His wife was also restrained in tie wraps, using excessive violence, they really didn't need to do.
"The victim in that case and his wife offered no resistance and yet the robbers felt the need to cut his ear. They basically put a bag over his head or a hood over his head. Took him away from his address to his mother's house where they then proceeded to steal items from his mother.
"Again very distraught for the victim in that, for both victims, and then again put a bag over his head and transported him back in his own car to his home address. And again meted out violence and stole items. All wholly unnecessary, really, to get what they wanted".
The robbery at the home of former England defender Ashley Cole involved one aggressive robber threatening to cut his fingers off with pliers during a violent break-in at his home on January 21, 2020. The ex-Arsenal, Chelsea and Derby left-back was led around the house in just a pair of shorts as intruders demanded jewellery.
Defendant Kurtis Dilks, 35, of Clifton, was accused of being part of a gang who smashed their way into Cole’s home with a sledgehammer andwas convicted of this alone. Jurors were told Cole and his partner Sharon Canu both had their hands bound by black cable ties, and the court was shown CCTV of the intruders leading the three-time Premier League winner up and down the stairs.
Watches, mobile phones, cash, a Gucci bag, headphones and a BMW smart key were all stolen during the break-in, the court was told.
Dilks, a courier, had claimed his DNA was found on the cable ties and a knife recovered from the scene in Fetcham, Surrey, because they were items previously stolen from his van.
Dilks was convicted alongside others for their roles in a string of “ruthlessly executed” robberies and burglaries between October 2018 and January 2020.
As well as the attack on Cole, Dilks was found guilty of conspiring to rob the wife of Huddlestone in May 2019 with fellow defendants Ashley Cumberpatch and Andrew MacDonald at the trial.
DI Hart said: "In May 2019, that's when we realised that actually we had a gang group of people targeting homes in Nottinghamshire, and then the outlet for those stolen goods was most likely Paris Jewels (in Hatton Garden).
"So that's really when the focus of the investigation changed and really ramped up, it's fair to say. Our initial investigation team then took ownership of all those other burglaries and tie-up robberies and then started to map it all together.
"We do believe all the victims had been targeted in the sense they were owners of high value jewellery. Some of the victims; in one case it was a mother at Caythorpe, home alone with her young child. It is evident they knew she was home alone and broke in carrying weapons and tied her up in her bedroom with a child there, so that kind of gives you a measure of kind of what they were prepared to do in that case".
The verdicts were:
Ashley Cumberpatch, 35, formerly of First Avenue, Carlton; found guilty on 11 charges. He was jailed for 24 years with a five-year extended licence.
Andrew MacDonald, 40, formerly of Woodstock Avenue, Nottingham; found guilty on 11 charges. He was jailed for 27 years with a five-year extended licence.
Adrian Eddishaw, 32, of Northall Avenue, Bulwell; found not guilty on two charges.
Matthew Johnson, 34, of Kingsthorpe Close, Mapperley; found not guilty on two charges.
Kurtis Dilks, 33, of Whitegate Vale, Clifton; found guilty on 13 charges. He was jailed for 30 years with a five-year extended licence due to his dangerousness.
Tevfik Guccuk, 39 of Houndsden Road, Southgate, London; found guilty on five charges. He was jailed for seven years.
Sercan Evsin, 25, of Meadow Close, Barnett; found guilty on four charges. He was jailed for five years.
Darren Stokes, 35, of Staunton Drive, Sherwood; found not guilty on one charge.
Christopher Yorke, 49, of Rose Ash Lane, Arnold; found guilty on one charge. He was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for 21 months.
Gordon Thornhill, 48, of Mosswood Crescent, Arnold; found not guilty on one charge.