Shropshire Star

Trio who tried to sell stolen designer saddles were rumbled when expert 'smelled a rat'

A Shropshire woman and two men have avoided jail after they attempted to sell designer saddles to a master saddler hours after they had been stolen from a country estate.


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The 13 saddles, worth more than £13,000, had been stolen in the middle of the night from stables at Mawley House in Cleobury Mortimer three years ago, a court heard.

Jason Dufty of Battlebridge Close, Leominster and Martin Dykes of Belle Vue Terrace, Hereford – both 33, and Bethan Collin of Bucknell, south Shropshire, aged 28, had all pleaded guilty at Telford Magistrates Court earlier this year to handling stolen goods.

The trio had been caught on May 7, 2021 trying to sell 'Monarch saddles' worth nearly £1,500 each to a Leominster master saddler who 'smelled a rat', when they offered them for just £100 each, Shrewsbury Crown Court heard on Friday.

The court was told that the saddles were taken from Mawley estate on May 6, when CCTV cameras recorded a white Renault pulling up around 2.30am and three individuals getting out and breaking into the stables.

Alexa Carrier, prosecuting, said the car used in the raid had belonged to one of the defendants, Bethan Collin, but the barrister told the court it was not her case that the saddles had been stolen by Collin or the other two men.

However, she said "just hours" after the burglary, the owner of a saddle store in Leominster was called to ask if he bought second-hand saddles.

“He told them that he did and two males and one female attended the store an hour later," said Ms Carrier. "Bethan told the saddler they had obtained the saddles after clearing out her grandfather's barn following his death.

"He offered them £100 per saddle knowing they were worth a lot more but they accepted. The saddle master knew something was not right so he stalled them and said come back the next day."

She said the saddler then called police, who waited at the store the following day to pick the trio up when they returned, and the saddles were found in Collin's car.

The court heard that under interview, while Collin denied being involved in the burglary she admitted knowing the saddles "were dodgy".

Collins was described to the judge as a woman of "previous good character" but the court was told she had taken the lead in the negotiations with the master saddler and was described as the "prime mover".

Dykes and Dufty had more than 30 convictions between them, Recorder Christopher Millington heard, but he was also told that both men had "turned their lives around" following the offence three years ago.

The judge said: "There was a burglary in the middle of the night by a group of individuals using a Renault Clio car belonging to you, Ms Collin.

"They broke into stables on an estate in Cleobury Mortimer and stole £13,000 worth of saddles.

"Within hours that stolen property came into your possession and pretty quickly there was an expedition following a phone call designed to dispose very quickly this very valuable property.

"Unfortunately you approached a master saddler based in Leominster who smelled a rat – probably because you were trying to sell very expensive saddles for just £100 each."

He added that it was a "serious case of handling stolen goods" that required an "immediate custodial sentence".

But he said: "I'm not going to send any of you to prison immediately. Instead, I will impose a short, suspended sentence to reflect the gravity of the offence."

He sentenced both Dykes and Dufty to nine months in jail suspended for 12 months and ordered they do 80 hours of unpaid work and pay £312 each towards court costs.

Bethan Collin was given a four month jail term, suspended for 12 months, and told to pay £105 in court costs.

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