Masked biker gang plotted to terrify builder with arsenal of weapons on Dartmoor

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Five men lured victim to quite Dartmoor lane in bid to force him to hand over £40,000, court told

Five masked men from a biker gang planned to scare a builder with a terrifying arsenal of weapons including a blow torch after luring him to a quiet country lane.

They wanted to force the 55-year-old into paying £40,000 to his jilted girlfriend and a former employee, a court heard.

But the gang called The Outlaws failed in their plan when he ran away across fields near Tavistock.

The gang fled in a BMW and four of them were arrested on the M5 as they headed back to their homes in Derbyshire and Leicestershire after being tracked by the police helicopter.

The fearsome array of equipment found in the car, including a blow torch, rope and pliers

The fearsome array of equipment found in the car, including a blow torch, rope and pliers (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)

Officers found a terrifying arsenal of weapons in the boot of the car including a blowtorch, an axe, pliers, screwdrivers, a hammer, scissors, cable ties, rope, chains, two pillow cases, two cans of petrol, and rolls of plastic sheeting.

The attack was organised by Devon man Jez Ball, who had worked for the victim's building firm but had fallen out with him over money.

 

The victim was conned into going to a bogus meeting with a client at a house on Axtown Lane, Yelverton, but was instead intercepted by the five men as he pulled up at the property.

He tried to drive off but got trapped in a dead end, where the BMW blocked him off.

Five thugs have admitted holding a man captive: (clockwise from top left) Dean Ramsell, David Bird (rear) and Stephen Cooper, Robert Haywood and Jez Ball

Five thugs have admitted holding a man captive: (clockwise from top left) Dean Ramsell, David Bird (rear) and Stephen Cooper, Robert Haywood and Jez Ball (Image: Plymouth Live)

Three men in balaclavas jumped out of the car and surrounded his Fiat before smashing his windows with rocks.

Witnesses thought they heard gunshots and the victim thought he saw the men with firearms, but none were recovered. He managed to get out of the car, hitting one attacker and pushing away another, before running off.

He was chased half a kilometre across fields and took refuge in a nearby home, where the police were called.

 

The plot was hatched because Ball was friendly with the man's former fiancée, 62-year-old Jennie Harmston, who had been jilted by text a few days before they were due to marry, Exeter Crown Court heard.

She claimed she had been taken for a ride by the victim, who she said had conned her out of £40,000. Miss Harmston posed as would-be customer Dr Sheila Long to arrange a meeting at a house in the lane.

The gang were going to threaten the man with tools including a hammer and axe

The gang were going to threaten the man with tools including a hammer and axe (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)

She was also prosecuted but charges were later dropped.

Ball is a member of the Derbyshire chapter of the Outlaws motorcycle gang and recruited fellow bikers David Bird, Stephen Cooper, Robert Haywood, and Dean Ramsell, to 'put on the frighteners'.

The other four men all travelled down in a BMW with false number plates. They had masks and had left their phones at home so their movements could not be traced.

 

Jez Ball, aged 56, of Diptford, Totnes; David Bird, aged 58, of Fairfield Crescent, Swadlincote, South Derbyshire; Stephen Cooper, aged 58, of The City, Woodville, Swadlincote; Robert Haywood aged 56, of Stanton Road, Burton-on-Trent; and Dean Ramsell, aged 44, of Main Street, Swannington, Coalville, Nottinghamshire, all admitted false imprisonment. Police have asked media not to name the victim.

Robert Haywood and David Bird (rear) caught on CCTV at Bridgwater Services on their way to Devon

Robert Haywood and David Bird (rear) caught on CCTV at Bridgwater Services on their way to Devon (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)

Ball was jailed for four years, Cooper and Haywood for two years eight months, and Ramsell and Bird for two years, four months by Judge Timothy Rose at Exeter Crown Court.

He told them:"This had been planned for at least two weeks. You went about the execution of what amounts to an extremely serious criminal offence of false imprisonment.

 

"The victim was obviously utterly petrified. If you had succeeded in getting hold of him and doing whatever you intended, which I am told was to frighten him by showing him the contents of the boot of the car and presumably to make demands.

"Your behaviour caused immense harm. I have read the victim impact statements and there was harm not only to the victim but to others who witnessed this."

 

From left: Dean Ramsell, Stephen Cooper and David Bird at Plymouth Crown Court (Image: Plymouth Live)

Peter Coombe, prosecuting, said the victim went to a house in Axtown Lane at around 10.45am on February 17, 2018, expecting to meet a client called Dr Long.

He said:"He was pursued by a BMW and ended up trapped in a yard at the end of the lane. Three men wearing balaclavas got out of the back of the BMW.

"They tried to get him out of the Fiat and said he had to go with them. They smashed the windows and he realised one of the men was Ball.

"He fled on foot and was pursued by one man. After failing to catch him, four men got into the BMW and made off with Ball driving away in the Fiat. The BMW was stopped later in the M5 and the items were found in the boot.

"The victim was terrified and says he is now suffering from PTSD and has lost work because of his extreme emotional upset and stress."

Mr Coombe said the five men were all members of a motorcycle gang called the Outlaws and the four men from the Midlands had come down to support Ball's attempt to recover money on behalf of himself and Ms Harmston.

The attack on the car in the lane was witnessed by people staying in a nearby house, including a 13-year-old boy on half term and a woman who filmed the BMW on an iPad as it drove away.

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News Article written by: 
Ted Davenport
Source of News article: 
plymouthherald.co.uk




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