The trial for a father and son accused of attempted murder after allegedly shooting at an unmarked police car began today.
Mechanics Richard Baldwin, 35, of Saturn Close, and his father Bernard Baldwin, 64, of Dove Tree Road, face multiple charges including attempted murder after the police vehicle was shot at on the A505 in the early hours of September 22 last year.
Richard Baldwin’s wife Victoria, 42, also faces a charge of assisting an offender.
The trio claim to have suffered ongoing problems from travellers in the area and describe the shooting at an unmarked white police van as a case of mistaken identity following a break-in at their business that night.
Appearing at Luton Crown Court today, prosecutor Martin Mulgrew said: “At the heart of this case is a question of intent. What intention lay behind the taking of the shotgun and the ammunition?
“Was it an intention to kill? Was it an intention to seriously injure?”
Mr Mulgrew described how the father and son had been arrested by emergency response officers shortly after 1.20am, with Victoria Baldwin arrested later when the shotgun was seized.
Speaking before a jury of six men and six women, he said: “Richard Baldwin refused to answer questions when he was interviewed. However at the conclusion of his interview, his solicitor provided the police with a prepared statement.
“It said that on that night, Richard Baldwin had received an alert that his premises was being broken into. Having had problems with travellers, he decided to take his shotgun to scare the intruders. He said he didn’t intend to use the shotgun.
“He admitted firing one in the air and one at the van on the A505... he said that he was not trying to kill anyone.
“Bernard Baldwin chose to answer questions. He stated he’d received a call from the alarm company [about a break-in]... he went out to his company van and drove to the garage. As he was making his way there, he saw his son and daughter-in-law in their car.”
The elder Mr Baldwin also caught sight of a white van, and told his son about it when they met at the garage on Eden Way.
“He told his son about the white van. He said that Richard had brought a shotgun and he got into their van with it.”
It was said that Bernard Baldwin drove in the van while his son Richard apparently sat in the passenger seat with the shotgun.
The prosecutor added: “They saw the white van at the roundabout and followed it... Richard removed the shotgun [from its case] and loaded it, pointed it out the window and fired in the air.
“Bernard Baldwin told police that they thought the people in the white van were responsible for the break-in... The white van was moving away from him.
“He followed it to the A505 ... the white van slammed its breaks on and Bernard did a three point turn and heard Richard fire another shot out of the window. By the time Bernard had turned their van around, the white van was gone.”
After the unmarked white police van had fled the scene, both Baldwins were later arrested by the emergency response unit of Beds Police.
The prosecutor added: “Victoria Baldwin also chose to answer questions at interview. She claimed there had been problems with travellers and had expressed a need to contact police for help.
“That day, she and her husband had dined and drank alcohol together before bed. A short time later, she was told about the alarm being activated. Victoria didn’t want Richard to go on his own, so Richard called Bernard and they agreed to all meet [at the garage].
“She drove their Volkswagen to the garage, arriving at the same time as Bernard. She said she saw and heard Richard on the phone outside the garage, saying ‘Why have you done this to us?’
“At no point did she say she saw Richard holding a shotgun. On the journey home, she said she realised there was a shotgun on the backseat of their car. She said this was the first time she had seen the shotgun that night.”
A collective defence for Bernard, Richard and Victoria Baldwin was read by defence barrister Goldberg, who stated: “Section 3 of the the Criminal Law Act of 1967 permits a private citizen to use such force as is reasonable in all circumstances to arrest a criminal or suspected criminal.
“Richard and his father genuinely believed they were following the Irish travellers who’d just burgled their garage on Eden Way. Richard fired out of this particular shotgun three times, twice in the air and once at the front tyre of the van. He wasn’t intending to kill or hurt anybody.
“He intended only to scare the occupants of the van in order to stop and submit to lawful arrest until police arrived. It was in fact, a genuine case of mistaken identity.
“Bernard Baldwin denies that he drove dangerously at all and as regards Victoria Baldwin, she was sat inside her car a mile or two away outside the garage at all times and she had no idea that shots were fired at all.”
The trial continues.