February 17, 2009
KNIFE-wielding robbers threatened to kill an art dealer and his wife during an audacious raid for paintings by LS Lowry worth up to £1.7m, a court heard.
Louise Aird thought it was the postman when she answered the door at her Cheadle home. But she was bundled to the ground as she was holding her baby and was threatened by a man with a knife, a jury at Manchester Crown Court was told on Tuesday.
Her husband, art dealer Ivan Aird, was tied up while a gang of robbers stripped art works from the walls and fled, the court heard.
Michael Leeming, prosecuting, said: "The evidence in this case suggests that this was not a spur of the moment, random offence but an audacious and carefully thought out pre-planned robbery."
Casey Miller, 23, of Constable Walk, Denton, denies robbery.
Mr Leeming, opening the case for the Crown, said: "On the morning of Thursday, May 3, 2007, a carefully planned and executed robbery took place at the home of Mr and Mrs Ivan Aird, near Cheadle.
"Original works of art by the artist LS Lowry, art memorabilia and other art works by other artists, valued at between £1.3m and £1.7m were stolen."
Louise Aird was feeding her daughter when the door bell rang. Mrs Aird could see a man standing at the front door wearing a long sleeved fluorescent orange jacket and black woolly hat and she assumed it was the postman.
But he bundled her into the hallway, pointing a large-bladed kitchen knife towards her face.
The Crown says the postman was this defendant, Casey Miller, said Mr Leeming.
He was shouting at Mrs Aird `get down or I will kill you. Who else is here? Don't look at me.'
Her screaming awoke her husband who came downstairs to be confronted by three or four other men who tied him up, and put him on the floor with a knife pointing at his face.
'Most wanted burglar' Peter Sonny Martin O’Halloran arrested
Police arrested one of the country’s most wanted suspected burglars, who is now being grilled about a series of break-ins across Surrey.
Peter Sonny Martin O’Halloran, 34, was arrested by Surrey Police Cross-Border Investigation Team officers at a hotel in Wandsworth on Monday, and subsequently charged with seven offences, including an attempted burglary in Princes Drive, Leatherhead, in 2007 and a burglary in Sandown Avenue, Esher on 30 December 2007.
For nearly two years, O’Halloran had been wanted on recall to prison for breaching release conditions, and also to be questioned about residential burglaries across southern and central England.
He appeared on Crimestoppers’ Most Wanted website and also featured on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme.
In December 2008, Surrey Police’s Cross-Border Investigation Team joined the hunt for O’Halloran, working with Gloucestershire Constabulary, which led the investigation to track him down.
Acting Detective Inspector Dan Volle said: “Criminals pay no regard to county boundaries, so we’re equally ready to step outside our borders and target them.
“To this end, we’ve embedded five intelligence officers in neighbouring forces and, as we’ve shown this week, we’re willing and able to work with forces that are even further afield.
“The arrest and charging of Peter O’Halloran should send a clear message to criminals that they cannot evade the police by moving around the country.
“Through Operation Shield, we will continue to target travelling offenders who blight our local communities in Surrey and those elsewhere.”
Detective Sergeant Dave Doherty, of Gloucestershire Constabulary, added: “This arrest was an example of the excellent cooperation which exists between police forces, and should serve as further evidence of our ability to work together to investigate cross-border offences, as well as our determination to bring suspects to justice.”
O’Halloran appeared at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, charged with burglaries in Gloucestershire, Surrey, Suffolk, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire, the attempted burglary in Leatherhead and a Proceeds of Crime Act offence in Suffolk.
He was remanded in custody, where he will be questioned further in relation to other suspected offences and is scheduled to appear at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court on Friday, February 13.