One week ago, three family members in a high profile attempted murder trial stood nervously in the dock and awaited their future.
“I don’t ever want to feel like that again,” said Richard Baldwin, 35, who had been charged with attempted murder alongside his father Bernard, 64.
“It still gives me goosebumps thinking about it,” said his wife Vicky, 42, who was accused of assisting an offender. “We didn’t know what would happen, you can’t get inside the heads of 12 jurors.”
As the ‘not guilty’ verdicts were read out, there was a roar of cheer from the public gallery and court staff rushed upstairs to congratulate them.
The trial was set against the backdrop of policing issues in Leighton Buzzard and ignited strong feelings within the community, many in support of the Baldwins.
Richard said: “We’ve had the worst eight months ever. You can only describe it as like having cancer and wondering if you’re going to get cured.”
Vicky added: “I’ve relived that night 100 times every day since it happened and it’s weird not to do that anymore.”
The couple run Baldwin Motors on Eden Way. After a burglary on September 22 last year, Richard and his father shot at an unmarked police van in a case of mistaken identity, which led to their arrest.
The pair were initially charged with possession of a firearm to cause grievous bodily harm, but the charges were later elevated to attempted murder.
Vicky said: “I was just sitting out at the front with my daughter when the phone went. It was the barrister saying, ‘Are you sitting down? They are now going to be charged with attempted murder’.
“I asked my neighbour to look after my daughter and then called Richard and Bernard to tell them. I just wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. My brain is already starting to block it out, I keep trying to remember how I felt.”
Richard added: “The police threw the book at us, they wanted to make an example out of us.”
The family said they’d had ongoing problems with certain travellers at their garage before the incident. Vicky likened the situation to small shops being forced to pay protection money to gangs.
She said: “The way this has been talked about sounds as though we’re against all travellers, but that’s not true. The people we were dealing with are a whole different kettle of fish. We’ve even had congratulations from some of the travellers at Toddbury Farm.”
The couple also received an enormous Christmas tree donated by one of the travellers’ families last year.
Richard said: “After it’s all over, you’re thinking ‘Let’s get back to normal’ and then you get that police officer stirring things up.”
During the trial, a ballistics expert had given evidence which differed from police statements about the distance of the three shots fired. Their defence also questioned the level of harm from the clay pigeon rounds used.
Richard said: “It was tough listening to the prosecution case go first. One copper who wasn’t even there gave a statement about his feelings, another copper said the shot was from six feet away and then ballistics proved that it wasn’t.”
Despite their concerns, the Baldwins insist they were treated well at the police station after their arrest. According to Vicky, one officer wept seeing her in the cell and lent her a mobile phone in order to check on her family.
The couple have four children in all and lost five babies before having their daughter, now aged two. Vicky, who faced a sentence of up to 11 years, said they suffered constant anxiety over their family’s future.
She said: “I was thinking about how old the children would be when I got out. Having never been in trouble or broken the law, it’s really frightening.”
They received strong local support and offers of help ever since the charges were brought,and would like all friends, family and members of the community.
“We just want to say a massive, massive thank you and give a shout out to what a lovely town we live in,” said Vicky. “It shows how much everybody cares for each other, so many people and businesses have been in touch to support us and tell us about their stories.”
And after paying out nearly £300,000 in legal fees, they are working hard to settle back into everyday life. Mechanic Richard, who runs Baldwins’ Motors on Eden Way, said: “Luckily our business is going strong. I’m going to take more people on and expand it.”