Monday, December 14, 2009

Notorious Cheltenham crime gang in court

Monday, December 14, 2009, 17:31

A legal bid was launched today to recover some of the millions of pounds gained by a notorious criminal family in a string of raids on stately homes.

The group, all part of the same notorious traveller family, were jailed for up to 11 years each in January 2008 for their roles in the crimes, which included Britain’s biggest burglary.

They stole antiques worth millions of pounds from wealthy homes in Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Worcestershire in a year-long spree.

They appeared at Reading Crown Court today for the beginning of a week-long confiscation hearing that could see them having to pay back some of the money.

Simon Burns, prosecuting, described the Johnsons as a “professional, criminal family team”, and added that “they were all operating as a joint team, and benefiting as a joint team”.

He said they each had different roles to play in the raids but had joint control, and told the court: “They didn’t want outsiders.”

Their targets included Ramsbury Manor, the Wiltshire mansion of property tycoon Harry Hyams, where they stole property worth millions in a raid described later as the UK’s biggest private house burglary.

Other victims included Formula One motor racing advertising tycoon Paddy McNally and Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire Sir Philip Wroughton.

When police arrested the gang, they estimated the total haul was worth £30 million.

Richard “Chad” Johnson, 34, and Daniel O’Loughlin, 33, were both jailed for 11 years, Michael Nicholls, 30, was given 10 years, Albi Johnson, 27, was jailed for nine years and 55-year-old Ricky Johnson was given eight years.

Ricky Johnson is the father of Chad and Albi and O’Loughlin is his nephew. Nicholls was the partner of his daughter, Faye. The family were based at a static caravan park in Evesham, Worcestershire, where they plotted the high-value raids.

They were all found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary between April 8 2005 and October 13 2006 following a month-long trial at Reading Crown Court.

A valuations expert is due to give evidence to the hearing on Wednesday, the court was told.

Other members of the Johnson family watched proceedings from the public gallery this afternoon, shouting messages of support to their relatives as they entered the dock.

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