Pupils admit raiding millionaire's house dressed as police with toy gun

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A group of high-school pupils robbed a millionaire businessman at gunpoint in a raid they planned between lessons, it emerged yesterday.

A group of high-school pupils robbed a millionaire businessman at gunpoint in a raid they planned between lessons, it emerged yesterday.

The boys, aged between 15 and 17, who attended a Roman Catholic school in Manchester, spent four weeks organising the raid with meticulous precision and drew on the skills of unwitting classmates.

One child who had showed off his toy gun collection to classmates was asked for an imitation pistol. Another with a talent for making false ID cards was asked to make a bogus police warrant card. Believing the card to be needed for a "drama production" he mocked it up on his family's dining-room table using a passport photograph and false police registration number, a jury in the trial of one of the boys at Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court heard.

His handiwork was to form a key part of the raid on 69-year-old John Reynard's £750,000 home, since it completed one of the 16-year-old robbers' pretence that he was a plain-clothes detective inspector examining a disturbance in Mr Reynard's neighbourhood.

The teenager, whose "disguise" also included a long coat and a blazer belonging to the father of one of his accomplices, was one of three boys who tricked their way into the house, pointed a gun at their victim's head, ordered him to lie on his living-room floor, ushered him to the master bedroom, took £400 pounds and fled.

These three boys have admitted robbery and another 17-year-old has admitted assisting an offender and handling £20 of the proceeds.

The trial concerns the alleged role played by a further 17-year-old who denies acting as an accomplice by supplying the gun to the raiders. None of the boys, who attended the Cardinal Langley School, can be named for legal reasons.

Kate Blackwell, prosecuting, said the boys were all "of good character and from good families" and hatched the plan in their classrooms and a sixth-form common room "against a background of bravado". Two of them had met while voluntarily appearing in identity parades at their local police station.

One of the robbers, who is 16 and a prosecution witness, told the jury: "We started talking about the robbery in my classroom. We had heard from other people this man kept large sums of money in his house. The idea was to break in at first. But we heard... he has people there protecting his house. We initially thought about getting a knife but then thought if we were to break in and there was a struggle someone might get seriously hurt. So we decided we would get a toy gun instead."

A reconnoitre mission was staged 48 hours before the raid. Mr Reynard answered the door to the youths who said there was a party nearby and they were checking whether the noise was disturbing him.

Two days later the bogus police officer returned, using the fake warrant to claim he was investigating the earlier incident.

Mr Reynard assumed the call must be authentic and let the boy into his living room, where the other boys - summoned in by a mobile phone call - helped overpower him. Initially, the boys demanded bank cards and pin numbers but when Mr Reynard said he did not know the number, they took £400 in cash from his spare room.

The trial continues today.