Members of a gang who raided the home of bulldog breeders in the Boston area – armed with knives and an imitation gun – have been convicted.
The four men targeted dog breeders Paul and Hayley Seal – where a gun was aimed at the couple’s daughter, Toni, and the trigger pulled, though there was no discharge.
After that Toni and her boyfriend, Michael Doherty, who was with her looking after the dogs, bravely drove the gang out of the house.
Police were helped to bring the gang to justice after one of them posed for a picture wearing the same bright blue cartoon pyjama bottoms worn by a suspect during another raid.
Two had already pleaded guilty to their part in the Boston incident and other offences and on Friday two more members of the gang were convicted at Maidstone Crown Court. The jury could not reach a verdict on a fifth accused.
The raid on the home of the Seals was one of a string carried out by the gang. The others were in Kent and Sussex.
Thomas Balderston, 23, of Ernest Road, and Christopher Aldred, 22, of Mayford Road, both Chatham, Kent, denied conspiracy to rob and conspiracy to carry an imitation firearm with intent to commit robbery. Both were convicted.
Christopher Heath, 30, and Terry Sullivan, 26, both of Ernest Road, Chatham, admitted the charges.
The court was told that during the Boston raid the gang had targeted the Seals, who breed British bulldogs, worth up to £2,000 each, as show dogs. The idea for that raid, said prosecutor Martin Yale, came from Balderston who owned a bulldog. He believed there would be a large amount of cash in the house.
After an initial visit to the area, the gang returned to the house on June 5, 2012.
The jury was told that Miss Seal shouted at the gang who were armed with knives and a gun and wearing balaclavas: “Get out of my house.”
“Toni Seal was pushing them away, telling them to get out of her house,” said Mr Yale.
“The men were telling them to get down, waving the knives around.
“The man with the gun pointed it at Toni Seal and pulled the trigger, but nothing was discharged. She continued to try to push them back.
“Mr Doherty went and got a chair and ran at the men with it in front of him. By the time he did this, the men were already retreating through the patio door. They escaped empty-handed.”
Sentencing on the four has been adjourned at Maidstone Crown Court until the week beginning November 4.
After the Friday verdicts Kent Police issued a statement indicating that the gang were partly responsible for their own arrest.
They said they had created a Blackberry Messenger group named ‘armed robbers’ and had taken photographs of themselves one of which showed them posing with a handgun.
After examining one of Sullivan’s mobile phones officers found a number of images of him posing in the same pyjamas worn by a suspect in one of the robberies. The police say those images of bright blue pyjama bottoms covered with pictures of cartoon sheep proved a vital clue in the case.
Det Sgt Andy Nicol, of Kent Police, said: “The crimes carried out by these four men were violent and often terrified the victims.
“Despite showing a level of forensic awareness some of the men became sloppy, taking ‘selfies’ on their mobile phones. Whether this was narcissistic or not, it became their downfall and before long there was a wealth of unquestionable evidence stacking up against them.”