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'Cannabis farm raid became shoot-out' - court
10:45am Friday 26th October 2012 in News
A BURGLAR was shot in the leg during a gun battle at a Worcestershire smallholding which was being used as a cannabis factory, a jury was told.
Robert Richards was a member of a gang who targeted the property called Stocking Gobbetts in Whitbourne, near Worcester, to steal drugs and equipment, it was alleged.
The gang armed themselves with a gun because it was known that the occupier Malcolm White owned a firearm after trouble in the past, said prosecutor Stephen Thomas at Worcester Crown Court.
Mr White and his partner Josephine Merrick were watching a film when the gang “announced their arrival” by smashing in the lounge window with a sledgehammer. Mr White quickly left by the front door, taking with him a shotgun from a gun cabinet, said Mr Thomas.
During firing from both sides, Mr White allegedly hit Richards in his right leg. He now has a metal leg and appeared in court in a wheelchair.
Mrs Merrick heard three shots being fired. She believed two came from a pistol. Police later recovered a bullet from a garage fascia. The gang fled in two cars and a van to Knightwick where one of the getaway cars, a stolen Honda, was abandoned.
Richards, bleeding heavily, and another gang member, Darren Randall, were dropped off in Leigh Sinton where they sought help at a Chinese restaurant, the jury heard. Police and an ambulance were sent to the scene and they were arrested.
Richards, aged 29, of Scholars Green, Birmingham, and Randall, 25, of Yardley Fields Road, Birmingham, deny aggravated attempted burglary.
Mr Thomas said the raid at 7.40pm on October 5 last year was sophisticated and pre-planned. Members of the gang had driven to Whitbourne three times on reconnaissance missions.
He said the van was to carry the cannabis crop away. Cable ties were taken to the scene to restrain the property’s occupants while plants were being harvested.
The operation being run there was worth £65,000 a year, said Mr Thomas. It was likely the gang planned to steal any drug profits found and equipment.
Also found by police were balaclavas, gloves, a crowbar, chisel, bin liners and a sledgehammer.
Mr Thomas said: “They knew that Mr White was growing cannabis and was a man who kept firearms and was likely to defend himself. They equipped themselves to deal with these eventualities.
“This was a serious attempt at a valuable target and was well worth the effort they were putting in. Mr White had had unwelcome visitors in the past and kept loaded firearms in his house. When he came back inside, he thought he had hit one man in the leg with his shotgun.”
Glass fragments from the broken bay window were found in Richards’ clothing. Gloves found in the Honda were linked to Randall by DNA and glass from the house.
The trial continues.