A HOUSE-SITTER was tied to a banister and hooded during a multimillion-pound raid at the Bulmers cider family’s home, a court was told.
Artwork and antiques were stolen by burglars who had ‘intimate knowledge’ of the sprawling country pile, it is alleged.
Jurors heard the family had invested ‘a lot of money’ in their home in Bruton, Somerset, between 2008 and 2009 to make it bigger and more palatial.
Two of the builders working on the property, Matthew Evans and Liam Judge, ‘planted the seed for others to nurture and grow as to this being a soft and lucrative target’, Stephen Mooney, prosecuting, told the trial.
Esmond and Susie Bulmer were on holiday on March 20, 2009, and employed Deborah Barnjum to house-sit and look after the family dog, named Echo.
Ms Barnjum secured the house before letting Echo out through a side door at about 10pm, said Mr Mooney.
‘As she did so she saw three shadowy figures in the doorway as if waiting for this very moment,’ he told the jury.
‘One man stepped forward and physically carried her into the house. She presented no threat, and yet her hands were secured with plastic ties.’
The burglars spent 45 minutes going through the house, selecting items to take, including one of Mr Bulmer’s cars, it is alleged. Mr Mooney said the ties were ‘brutally, unnecessarily and cruelly tight’ and Ms Barnjum was left ‘terrified’. Her sister arrived the following day to find the house-sitter ‘distressed and still tied up’ and called police.
In total, 15 paintings, jewellery and antiques worth more than £2million were stolen, Mr Mooney added.
Following the burglary, the paintings were allegedly taken to Birmingham and stored in a garage where they remained until 2015.
Judge, 42, and Evans, 41, both of Tuffley, Gloucestershire, and Skinder Ali, 39, of no fixed address, deny conspiracy to commit burglary. They are among 11 men on trial in connection with the raid who deny all charges against them. The Bristol crown court trial continues.