Guy Hedger murder: Two men who shot businessman dead in botched burglary get life in prison

'It did not matter who pulled the trigger,' says CPS

Monday 22 January 2018 17:08 GMT
Undated handout photo issued by Dorset Police of Guy Hedger
Undated handout photo issued by Dorset Police of Guy Hedger (PA)

Two men have each been jailed for at least 34 years at Winchester Crown Court for the murder of businessman Guy Hedger.

Mr Hedger, 61, was shot dead during a botched burglary at his £1m home in Dorset.

Jason Baccus, 42, of Verney Close, Bournemouth, Dorset, and Kevin Downton, 40, of Winterborne Stickland, near Blandford, were found guilty following a 40-day trial at Winchester Crown Court.

Undated handout photo issued by Dorset Police of Kevin Downton
Undated handout photo issued by Dorset Police of Kevin Downton (PA)

A third defendant, Scott Keeping, 44, also of Verney Close, was found not guilty of murder and his wife, Helen Keeping, 40, was also cleared of two counts of assisting an offender.

Prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC told the jury that Downton and Baccus, wearing masks, stormed into the bedroom where Mr Hedger was with his husband Simon Hedger-Cooper, and ordered both naked men to face the wall.

The trial heard that Downton shot Mr Hedger with a sawn-off shotgun after Mr Hedger-Cooper set off a panic alarm, causing the thieves to flee.

Undated handout photo issued by Dorset Police of Jason Baccus
Undated handout photo issued by Dorset Police of Jason Baccus (PA)

In a video interview shown to the jury, Mr Hedger-Cooper, 48, described how his partner began to tell the raiders the code for their personal safe but then froze.

He said: “All the alarms outside went on and flashing, alarms going off. As it happened I heard an almighty boom, shot, and Guy said ‘I have been hit, I have been hit’.”

The court was told that jewellery and other high-value items such as Louis Vuitton bags worth a total of £124,000 were stolen during the raid, much of which has not been recovered by police.

Mr Hedger-Cooper said: “Many of the items taken from our home hold great sentimental value and are very important to me.”

Items stolen included a Pandora bracelet which Mr Hedger had given to his partner of 10 years and which had charms including their star signs and a bible.

Other items taken included a 14 carat gold ring with rubies and emeralds, a Tiffany necklace and several watches, including brands Amadeus and Cartier.

Much of the stolen jewellery was found discarded in various locations around the area with parts of the gun found in the River Stour near Canford Parish Church.

Mr Hedger was a director of the Avonbourne International Business and Enterprise Trust, which runs colleges and a primary school in the Bournemouth area.

After sentencing, John Montague from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “These men planned to break into Mr Hedger’s home and steal high-value items. Kevin Downton was armed with a sawn-off shotgun.

“The defendants denied murdering Mr Hedger but the CPS was able to paint a clear picture for the jury demonstrating how the men planned the crime. The evidence put forward by prosecutors showed it could only have been them who were involved.

“It did not matter who pulled the trigger as both defendants were aware a gun had been taken to the address and was likely to be used if the burglary did not go as planned.”

Mr Hedger-Cooper, paid tribute to his partner in a victim impact statement read to the court, he said: “Guy was an intelligent, creative, caring and gentle man.

“Guy worked hard his whole adult life, he deserved what he had worked for, he deserved to enjoy the fruits of his labour and he deserved to still be with me today.”

He described Mr Cooper as “a talented artist”, saying: ”Although working for large corporations, Guy could never be called corporate.”

He added: “This is all in stark contrast to the final moments of Guy’s life, which were full of terror, fear and pain.

“No-one deserves to have their life ended in such an abrupt way. I pray that he is now at peace.

“The events of that evening have radically changed my life forever and are an experience from which I shall never recover.”

The judge said: “Nothing I can say could possibly prevent Mr Simon Hedger-Cooper continuing to be tormented by the thought that, if only he had not pressed the panic button, his partner might still be alive today.

“This counter-factual cannot of course be answered. More importantly, the decision to press that button was not irrational and it was made in circumstances of extreme stress. Many of us would have done exactly the same.

“The jury rightly rejected the argument that Guy Hedger’s death was or even might have been some sort of accident. A conscious decision was made to squeeze the trigger of a loaded weapon pointed in the direction of the victim.

“Guy Hedger sensed what was about to happen because he raised his left hand defensively.

“Startled you may well have been, but you Kevin Downton had the presence of mind, and the degree of callousness, to remove two phones from the bedside table before leaving that room.”

He added: “This was the collision of two worlds: one of those worlds has been permanently torn asunder.”

Press Association

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