The shooting of a defenceless elderly farmer because he wasn’t complying quickly enough in a violent robbery could easily have proved fatal, detectives said today.
Charles Baldwin, 65, was kneecapped and then blasted in his foot by gunman Alan Daniels as a Kirkby gang stormed a rural home in Aughton, West Lancashire.
The armed thugs demanded cash and valuables and eventually made off with four shotguns, cash, a £500 Raymond Veil watch, a £160 silver cuff bracelet, a £5,000 platinum diamond ring, car keys and a £3,000 yellow gold bracelet.
Daniels, a hired hitman with a criminal past of shooting people, fired twice at compliant Mr Baldwin, angered by his hesitancy to his questions, and barked at him: “Answer me quicker.”
Nicknamed “Docker”, the 38-year-old will soon be sentenced alongside accomplices Anthony Hill, Craig Reynolds and Dean Sanders.
Today, police said it was fortunate they weren’t dealing with a murder inquiry.
Detective Chief Inspector Jason Richardson, senior investigating officer, of Lancashire Police, told the ECHO: “This could easily have proved fatal, and it was lucky it wasn’t.
“These men had no regard for the victim’s safety whatsoever, he was shot at point blank range and lost a lot of blood.
“There was no need to shoot the homeowner, from the start he was totally under their control, it was wholly unnecessary.”
Detectives also revealed their belief that while Daniels was the man firing the gun at the Back House Lane on the evening of July 28, 2019, and issuing the threats, it was Hill who formulated the robbery plot and brought the gang together.
The first breakthrough in the case came when officers identified a blue Audi A3 car approaching a cash point on Longmoor Lane, Fazakerley, where a number of withdrawals with Mr Baldwin’s cards were made, amounting to a few hundred pounds each time.
That vehicle was Hill’s and Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras around West Lancashire then discovered that car had made two reconnaissance missions to Back House Lane in the days leading up to the robbery.
Analysis of his phone revealed key contact made with his co-accused as detectives pieced together the chatter among the gang before and after the violent gang.
One message saw them talk of “getting the boys together” for the armed robbery and three weeks after the shooting another communication discussed selling an air gun, one of the weapons stolen from Mr Baldwin.
DCI Richardson said that while four men had been convicted, “there were a few others involved on the periphery,” but officers were “satisfied we’ve got the main players.”
The gang clearly thought there was a lot more cash and valuables in the home, and one thug told Mr Baldwin, “You’ve got more money than this,” during the raid.
Daniels, 38, of Oaklee Drive, Kirkby, admitted conspiracy to rob, possession of a firearm with intent, and wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm before the trial of six other men started earlier this year in Preston.
His DNA was found on a paper knife which was used to crudely cut a gold bracelet from the wrist of Mr Baldwin, which undeniably placed him at the scene.
In his police interview, he remained “cocky and arrogant,” detectives said, never showing any hint of remorse.
Mr Baldwin has suffered life-changing injuries, needed several operations and is still at risk of amputation due to the two devastating gunshot wounds, it has been heard.
Extracts from his account to police illustrated his harrowing ordeal.
He recalled: “I was fast asleep, and then I heard a commotion outside and I didn’t have a clue what it was.
“So I got up, and my little dog with me.
“And the summerhouse has patio doors, and there were these four fellas with, erm, erm, masks on… and hoodies, and dancing round with shotguns, and putting the cartridges in.
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“And then one of them must have saw…
“And seen me and he, he shot at me, which blew the patio door away.
“I ducked back, and I literally thought, “Am I dreaming?”
Mr Baldwin was frogmarched into his house, past terrified girlfriend Patricia, and was shot on the way inside and then again as he offered to show the gang his cash box when sat at his computer desk where watches were taken from the drawers.
A gun was pressed into his teeth and groin and he was also smashed to the face as the thugs demanded more loot.
Mr Baldwin added: “So, so he then said to me,“You’ve got more money than this,”
“I said I haven’t.”
“So he, kind of, got annoyed and he said, “Well, have you got any guns?”
“So I said, ‘Yeah. I have.’
“Answer me quicker.” (makes sound) (gestures)
“And my, and my…
“Cos I was sitting on my chair, in my, in my ank… in my ankle.
“So I said, ‘Yeah. I’ve got guns,’ (inaudible) going through my mind all the time.
“I don’t wanna give these guns cos they might kill somebody’s child with them, but, er, I had no alternative.”
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Mr Baldwin feigned a heart attack, persuading the gang to flee, but not before one of them warned: “Don’t call the police for an hour, cos if you do I’ll come back and kill you.”
Anthony Hill, 40, of Oakdale Close, Kirkby, Craig Reynolds, 36, of Birchmuir Hey, Kirkby, and Dean Sanders, 32, of St Andrews Court, North Shields, were found guilty by a jury, within two days, of the first two of those charges, and along with Daniels, all four await sentence.
Formby restaurant boss Thomas Cunningham, the victim’s neighbour, was cleared of the one charge against him, conspiracy to rob, and walked free from Preston Crown Court.
Anthony Shrimpton and Alan Hemmings, from Kirkby, were cleared midway through the trial after it was found there was insufficient evidence against them.
Judge Graham Knowles, QC, has told Daniels, Sanders, Hill and Reynolds they could expect prison sentences for “such extremely serious offending.”