'Incompetent' burglars jailed for 34 years for murder of businessman Guy Hedger

Two men who murdered a businessman during an "amateurish and incompetent" burglary at his £1 million home have been jailed for at least 34 years each.

Guy Hedger, 61, was shot dead after Jason Baccus and Kevin Downton stormed into the bedroom of his house in Castlewood, Ashley, near Ringwood, Hampshire, at about 3am on April 30, 2017.

Both Baccus, 42, of Verney Close, Bournemouth, and Downton, 40, of Winterborne Stickland, near Blandford, Dorset, denied pulling the trigger of the sawn-off shotgun used to murder their victim.

Gasps could be heard from the public gallery as the verdicts were returned by the jury after 20 hours of deliberation, but neither man showed any sign of emotion.

Court artist sketch of (left to right) Scott Keeping, Jason Baccus and Kevin Downton in the dock at Winchester Crown Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Court artist sketch of (left to right) Scott Keeping, Jason Baccus and Kevin Downton in the dock at Winchester Crown Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Sentencing them at Winchester Crown Court, Mr Justice Jay said "it was a series of elementary but stupid decisions that led to your arrest".

He added that the planning of the raid "was amateurish and incompetent but that doesn't diminish the culpability of what happened.

"You may have been out of your own depths, that was your decision, but the risk of taking a loaded gun into someone's bedroom was evident to you as to anyone.

"The tragedy was on the cards."

Speaking to Downton, he added: "You have a cold, callous streak and show no remorse."

And to Baccus, he said: "I would not describe you as ruthless but I have seen no signs of remorse from you."

Guy Hedger case
Guy Hedger case

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Mr Hedger's husband, Simon Hedger-Cooper, 48, described his partner as "his rock" and said that he was devastated.

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."

Gun parts recovered after the murder of Guy Hedger (Dorset Police/PA)
Gun parts recovered after the murder of Guy Hedger (Dorset Police/PA)

A third defendant, Scott Keeping, 44, also of Verney Close, was cleared of murder and his wife, Helen Keeping, 40, was cleared of two counts of assisting an offender.

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."

He added: "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."

Baccus and Downton were also convicted of offences of aggravated burglary with a firearm, possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and two charges of burglary of industrial buildings.

Keeping was also cleared of these offences.

Prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC told the jury during the 40-day trial that Downton and Baccus, wearing masks, stormed into the bedroom where Mr Hedger was with his husband and ordered both naked men to face the wall.

Downton shot Mr Hedger with a sawn-off shotgun after Mr Hedger-Cooper set off a panic alarm.

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'."

Mr Lickley said: "One of the two intruders said, as the two homeowners lay on the bed naked - as they had been ordered to - one of the two men said 'we will shoot you if you don't do what we say'.

"And they did exactly that."

Mr Lickley said that a search of Downton's Vauxhall Astra found a number of items in a hidden space in the ceiling including a snood which had gunshot residue on it as well as a mobile phone and SIM card linked to the raid.

Downton denied being involved in the raid and told the jury that he had been involved in a burglary earlier on an industrial estate in Verwood.

He said he had stolen a safe and had taken it to some woods to try to break into it but failed.

Baccus, a life-long criminal, also admitted being part of the earlier break-in, but said he was not involved in the fatal burglary and had only provided a car for Downton to use that night.

Jewellery and other high-value items such as Louis Vuitton bags worth a total of £124,000 were stolen during the raid. Much of the haul has not been recovered.

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

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