Gang accused of being responsible for 54 raids

Exeter Crown Court.

Exeter Crown Court. - Credit: Archant

An alleged professional criminal funded a jet-setting lifestyle by masterminding burglaries across Devon, including in Ottery St Mary and Beer, it was claimed at Exter Crown Court.

A jury was told Reginald Soper was claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and living in a caravan, but had been on two holidays to Jamaica, two to Cyprus, and trips to Mexico, Egypt and Majorca in the four years before his arrest.

It was alleged at Exeter Crown Court that he formed part of a gang which carried out 54 raids on jewellers and small businesses all over Devon, including at FW Perkins in Ottery and Dolphin Antiques Centre in Beer.

Soper, 50, and his brother Percy Soper, 55, both of the Otterford caravan park at Culmhead, near Taunton, Somerset, Daniel Small, 24, of Linketty Lane, Plympton, and Nick Christian, 24, of Bernice Terrace, Plymouth, Devon, all deny conspiracy to burgle.

The court was told this week that the accused never left fingerprints and planned their raids to ensure there was no evidence to link them to the burglaries.

It was alleged they caused massive damage, smashing their way through walls or fire exit doors and used tools to remove safes. They wore masks or disguises to hide their faces so they could not be recognised on CCTV, it was claimed. The total value of the goods stolen was tens of thousands of pounds including £50,000 from five jewellery shop raids.

The group was arrested after a five-month police operation, codenamed Churchill, in the summer of 2012.

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Mr Donald Tait, prosecuting, told the jury: “This case is about burglaries, and there were a lot of them.

“Our case is that these defendants, and the two Soper brothers in particular, are professional, career criminals with no legitimate source of income.

“They planned these offences in advance, wore disguises to avoid recognition.

“They were forensically aware and left very little to link them with these offences.”

The trial continues and is expected to last for six to 10 weeks.