Published Friday, 17 January 2014
Barlow, Murray and Blundell, pictured, sentenced to 17 years in total. (© PSNI)
Last week 52-year-old Richard Blundell, from Bardsay Road, Craig Murray, 33, of Victoria Road, Crosby and 50-year-old Stephen Barlow from Hewitson Road, all from Liverpool, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary between 31 March and 9 April, 2011.
The trio had travelled from Merseyside to Belfast in April 2011 and used bogus identities to book into a hotel and made a number of visits to businessman Michael Herbert's Malone Road property to check the layout of the premises, its grounds and security measures.
On the night of Friday 8 April 2011, using false number plates on a car and dressed in jogging gear, the three entered the grounds of the detached house where they were subsequently confronted by police in the back garden.
Barlow was arrested in the garden, while Blundell and Murray ran off but were detained by police a short distance away.
All three were wearing black ski masks and gloves as well as dark clothing over high visibility running kits.
In a follow-up search the next day, police uncovered items in a backpack including cable ties which police believe were to be to be used in the planned burglary.
This is a group of experienced criminals who came to Northern Ireland with the intention of making money through violence or the threat of violence.
Detective Chief Superintendent Roy McComb, Organised Crime Branch
On Friday, Belfast Crown Court heard that the men had been under surveillance by police for sometime as they "cased" their target.
Judge McFarland was told that in 2004, Blundell was jailed for two counts of aggravated burglary, in the same year Barlow received a 30-month sentence for a burglary offence.
Defence counsel for Murray expressed his remorse and explained that he had only become involved after falling on "financial hardship in 2011".
The judge said it was clear the men were part of a "sophisticated operation" to rob the Herbert home that had been foiled by police. He added it had had an effect on the family, who were aware of what had been happening.
He sentenced Barlow and Blundell to six years and Murray five years, with half of the sentences to be served in custody and half on licence.
Reacting to the sentencing, PSNI Organised Crime Branch head, Detective Chief Superintendent Roy McComb said: "I want to acknowledge the courage and perseverance of the intended victims in this investigation who have worked with police to ensure this dangerous Organised Crime Group was brought to justice.
"The fact that they did not succeed is due in no small measure to the attitude of the victims in working with police and the bravery and professionalism of PSNI officers who worked with colleagues in the National Crime Agency and the Titan team (North West Regional Organised Crime Unit) in England to bring these criminals to justice."
© UTV News