A GANG of burglars, who left a businessman for dead on his own land in a bungled burglary, have been jailed for a total of 45 years.
Julian Gardner, described as a ‘decent, honourable man’ was crushed to death by his own Land Rover as he tried to protect his own hard-earned property from the six men.
Mr Gardner was left dying in a pool of blood outside the car repair workshop he ran at his home on Bush Barn Farm, Robertsbridge.
Judge Anthony Scott-Gall said he was found covered in dirt and had been hit in the upright position and then dragged across the land.
During the night-time pre-planned raid, the thugs made off with thousands of pounds of car parts and tools.
After being woken just after midnight on October 11, 2010, Mr Gardner, 52, had picked up a shotgun he kept for shooting club events and set off to ‘protect his hard-earned property’.
His body was found the next morning by his business partner Damien Porter.
Julian Gardner had been sleeping in a converted barn on the farm while his 92-year-old mother, Molly Gardner, and two lodgers stayed in the main farmhouse.
The jury at Lewes Crown Court heard that although the burglars had planned their operation carefully, they had not realised Mr Gardner was sleeping in a nearby building.
Sentencing the men, Judge Anthony Scott-Gall said: “This was an offence committed at night when there was a likelihood the occupier would be present at the scene.
“That occupier was killed while trying to prevent the burglary from taking place.
“Steps were then taken to hide the evidence.
“None of you have shown any flicker of remorse.”
He identified the two brothers Marcus and Terrence Bristow, both from Ashford, as the ‘prime movers’ in the plot and sentenced them to 11 years each.
They were both found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary, manslaughter and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Judge Scott-Gall added that Terrence Bristow, 42, was of ‘irrevocable bad character’ having had 34 convictions for 66 offences dating back to 1981.
Marcus Bristow, 31, has had 11 convictions over 20 years, largely for dishonesty.
Judge Scott-Gall added: “You were both convicted by the jury of manslaughter.
“Gardner was upright when first struck by the vehicle.
“He was knocked to the ground then suffered the catastrophic injury which led to his death.”
It is unclear which of the six defendants originally charged with Mr Gardner’s manslaughter, some of whom are related, were at the wheel of the car.
Judge Scott-Gall said: “I’m satisfied there was an offence involving a high culpability carried out when escaping from a crime.
“No one checked the condition Julian Gardner was in.
“He was a decent, honourable, hard-working man who was killed in a ghastly manner while trying to do no more than apprehend burglars at this property.
“I have read the impact statement from his mother and sister and it is heartbreaking.”
Marcus Bristow claimed during the trial he was not at the scene because he was involved in another burglary, involving a lorry, at the time.
Lee Delay, 23, of Tunbridge Wells, and Paul Dunn, 33, from Cranbrook, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and manslaughter and were sentenced to seven years each.
Both were described by the judge as ‘foot soldiers.’
Oliver Payne, 25, from Tunbridge Wells, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
He was found not guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to three years.
The court heard Payne had had an accident leading to a brain haemorrhage in July 2007, meaning he was more suggestible and influenced by others due to a personality disorder.
Christopher Leek, 30, from Cranbrook, was found guilty of the same two charges but the Judge discharged a count of manslaughter after the jury could not make a decision.
He was sentenced to four-and-a-half years.
Terrence Dunn, 57, of Sandhurst, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and he was sentenced to 18 months.
Roger Coe-Salazar, chief inspector for the CPS said: “This was a meticulous planned burglary executed by career criminals.
“The defendants callously left Julian Gardner dying.
“His courage was to cost him his life.
“None of the defendants have shown any remorse for their actions and I sincerely hope the convictions will at least bring some solace to Mr Gardner’s family.”