Two convicted of murdering businessman Guy Hedger during botched raid

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Two men have been convicted of the murder of businessman Guy Hedger who was shot dead during a botched burglary at his £1 million home.

The 61-year-old was killed after intruders entered his home in Castlewood, Ashley, near Ringwood, Hampshire, at about 3am on April 30, 2017.

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.

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.

Downton and Baccus showed no emotion as the verdicts were announced although gasps could be heard from the public gallery.

The pair 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.

Scott Keeping was also cleared of these offences.

The two convicted defendants will be sentenced later on Monday.

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)

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.

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.”

Guy Hedger case
Evidence seen by the court (Dorset Police/PA)

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.

Also stolen were a Louis Vuitton wash bag worth about £650 given to Mr Hedger-Cooper by his partner for Christmas 2012 and a larger bag of the same brand worth £1,200.

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.

Gun parts recovered after the murder of Guy Hedger (Dorset Police/PA)
Part of a gun was recovered from a nearby river (Dorset Police/PA)

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

The jury was told by the prosecution that Baccus was the second man in the house while Keeping remained in the getaway car outside.

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 that night at Apple Snacks sandwich shop on the Ebblake industrial estate, Verwood.

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

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

Drug-addict Mr Keeping said that he had stayed at home that night after drinking while watching the television, an alibi which was supported by his wife who denied selling on the stolen property.

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