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Friday, February 06, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Aldsworth House Robbery Pair Guilty !!


Burglars threaten to pull out fingernails of retired Army major aged 75


A retired Army major aged 75 was threatened with having his fingernails pulled with pliers by burglars until he gave the keys to a safe at his country home


Tom Williams fought the masked raiders until eventually being overpowered at his estate near Chichester, West Sussex, which he shares with his wife, Sarah.

The gang, who were jailed yesterday having targeted up to ten other country house burglaries across Sussex and the south of England, stole £400,000 worth of antiques and heirlooms, including medals, swords and firearms.

Speaking after the court case, Mr Williams, whose ancestors include an admiral, a general, and a great, great grandfather who served in Nelson's Navy, said: "Once I had been tied up I was very keen on not giving them the information they wanted.

"However, when they said they would do my fingernails with pliers I started to revise my opinion."

The raiders were captured by police as they dropped off the haul with a crooked antiques dealer.

Two of them, Wolfgang Schmelz, 58, and Christopher Doughty, 48, were jailed yesterday for 17 years at Hove Crown Court.

The dealer, Phillip Capewell, received a five year sentence at an earlier trial for handling stolen goods.

It can also be revealed that a deliberate attempt to "nobble" jurors was made during an original trial, in 2007, in which the jury failed to reach a verdict. A man wearing a balaclava and ski goggles approached two jurors as they queued outside a sandwich bar in Hove during a lunch break and handed them a flyer telling them to find the robbers not guilty.

The court heard how the burglars broke into Aldsworth House late at night in June 2006 and attacked Mr Williams with a cosh.

The couple were then tied up with gaffer tape and a bag and a fleece were pulled over the couple's heads. The trio spent the next six hours looting the couple's home.

They took family heirlooms from five generations of military service going back to 1790 in Mr Williams' - including General Charles Williams and Admiral Hugh Williams.

Speaking outside court yesterday, Mr Williams said: "I really did not want to give in but I did not really have much option. I was fairly heavily overpowered.

"I had been hit a couple of times and knocked down on to the floor and kicked a couple of times.

"They were fairly criminally efficient and had got my watch off and slipped my wife's engagement ring off her finger without us realising it."

Mrs Williams said that she feared for her husband's life as he fought the burglars.

He added: "We are determined not to be broken by what happened and want to get on with our lives."
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Video interview with the victims here, scroll down: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/sussex/7873023.stm

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