I thought I would die: Gang gets 50 years for armed robbery at businessman's home

Four men have been jailed for 50 years after a couple were subjected to a terrifying armed robbery at their North Yorkshire home.

Lands Lane, Knaresborough (Google Maps)

Businessman Darren Broadbent suffered knife wounds to his face, arm, leg and hand as he tried to protect his wife Rebecca when three masked intruders smashed their way into their large detached home in Knaresborough and demanded their jewellery and watches.

The robbers, from Leeds, fled with property worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, including Mrs Broadbent’s £150,000 7ct diamond engagement ring, and today her husband described in his victim impact statement how the attack had turned his life upside down.

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Mr Broadbent, 49, said the couple had been renting the house while their dream home was being built nearby and they were only a few months away from moving in.

“We planned to move into the house and start a family, having already chosen the baby room furniture, wallpaper, colours etc,” he said.

“We moved from London to Knaresborough as we wanted to raise our children in a safe environment, near to our families, having lived in London for many years.

“In what seemed like a lifetime, although it probably only lasted 10 minutes, the attack has taken virtually everything away from us.”

Mr Broadbent, who was sat in court with his 33-year-old wife, said the knife wounds had left him with scars and the damage to his fingers meant he could not grip properly.

“Every minute of every day there is a constant reminder of those horrible, vicious, cowardly 10 minutes,” he said.

“During those 10 minutes I thought we were going to die. I believed they were going to kill Rebecca and I did everything I could to protect her.

“I could not let that happen at any cost. I fought and fought until the last stabbing went so far into my leg that it fractured my thigh bone.

“At that point I honestly thought I was going to die.”

Mr Broadbent said he could not believe it happened to them and in the aftermath he had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

“We have had to relocate to a different part of the country and have still not finished building our dream home which will eventually have to be sold both from a financial perspective and an emotional one as we could never live across from where the attack happened,” he said.

“Why would anyone use that level of violence and threats to take from strangers? It will never make any sense to me and I hope that no one else has to suffer at the hands of these cowards ever again.”

The court heard that members of the gang had made trips from Leeds to Knaresboroughin the days leading up to the robbery on May 14 last year.

The Broadbent’s had been in their bedroom at about 10pm when three of the gang smashed a patio door window with a large stone and confronted the couple on the stairs.

The intruders fled in a stolen BMW car which was later found abandoned in the Lincoln Green Court area of Leeds the next day.

Only a few items of the stolen property was found in the vehicle.

Lewis Walker, 29, of Larkhill Walk, Leeds, and 30-year-old Joel Hutchinson, of Raylands Way, Leeds, pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to rob while 24-year-old Shelby Bruce, of Cross Quarry Street, Leeds, and Jason Henriques, 25, of no fixed abode were found guilty after a trial.

A fifth gang member was also found guilty of conspiracy to rob, but he will be sentenced at a later date.

Prosecutor Tom Storey told Judge Robert Bartfield that Walker, Bruce and Henriques were the men who carried out the robbery while Hutchinson and the fifth defendant may have been the organisers.

Jailing the men at the end of two-week trial Judge Bartfield said Mr Broadbent’s description of the defendants as cowards was right and the impact on the couple could last a lifetime.

“Being attacked in your own home like this is everybody’s worst nightmare and it came true for them that night,” he said.

“There probably won’t be a day that goes by when they can forget about this and it will be with them for the rest of their days.”

Walker and Hutchinson, who both pleaded guilty, were given prison sentence of 13 years and seven months for the conspiracy to rob while Henriques and Bruce each received 16-year jail terms.

Bruce, who had punched one of his co-defendants in the face after the jury returned their guilty verdicts was sentenced to an additional year in jail for contempt of court and Walker, who spat at another member of the gang during the proceedings, received an extra four months in prison.

After the case Judge Bartfield commended the Broadbents for their bravery and he also highlighted the professionalism of the police officers involved in the inquiry.

He said the team of officers should be commended for their work and he noted the key role played by modern technology in tracking the defendants’ mobile phones before and after the robbery.

“I don’t think 10 years ago this case would have been discoverable or tracable to those involved,” he suggested.