Golf clubs targeted in lockdown raids
Exclusive golf clubs suffered tens of thousands of pounds of loss and damage when they were targeted by raiders in pre-planned attacks during lockdown.
The Close House, Chester-le-Street and Ponteland golf courses came under attack in April last year when the country was in the grip of the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Newcastle Crown Court heard a burglary gang used specially bought cars and vans to target the courses and steal valuable merchandise, trophies and clothing.
The raids caused devastation during already troubled times.
Prosecutor Graham O'Sullivan told the court the Close House at Heddon on the Wall, Northumberland, came under attack on April 2 when the club house was ram-raided.
Around £16,000 of property was taken and £6,000 damage was caused.
Mr O'Sullivan added: "In total, an estimated £50,000 had to be spent on improved security measures and insurances."
The court heard Chester le Street Golf Club was targeted three days later.
Mr O'Sullivan said: "Two men carried out the burglary, breaking into the club house and using a hammer to smash a trophy cabinet and take trophies."
The court heard the historic trophies were worth around £12,000 and many of the items had a sentimental value to the club and its members.
Some of them were later recovered after they were found in the River Wear.
Ponteland Golf Club in Newcastle was targeted on April 12.
Mr O'Sullivan said the raiders had bought a flat bed truck earlier that day and added: "It was reversed into a wall of the golf shop, causing extensive damage,£20,000 in equipment and merchandise was taken.
"The damage caused was in excess of £5,000."
The court heard John Croft, who was one of the raiders, and another man were also seen acting "suspiciously" around Morpeth Golf Club but it was not burgled.
Croft, of no fixed address, who was brought up in Newcastle and Jarrow, admitted conspiracy to burgle.
He also admitted dangerous driving in a transit van in Newcastle, which he rammed into a police car and injured an officer.
Croft admitted blackmail and having an offensive weapon after he took a £50 taxi ride then told the driver he would not be paying, while armed with a knuckle duster.
And he pleaded guilty to two charges of affray and one of having an offensive weapon after he and his brother Geoffrey Croft, 31, turned up at a house in Sunderland on April 28 last year because the sibling said he was owed money.
The court heard the brothers were asked to leave by a woman who saw them outside the house but Mr O'Sullivan added: "She heard a bang at the door which then swung open and caught her foot.
"She had already stared placing a call to her father.
"The defendant John Croft tried to take her phone.
"He pulled her hair and grabbed her hand.
"She then called the police."
The court heard John Croft then picked up a knife before his brother Geoffrey Croft told him to "get the **** out" and both men left.
Around £100 of damage was caused inside the house.
There was a further stand-off in the street, while John Croft was still armed with the knife, when the brothers saw members of the victim's family in the street.
Geoffrey Croft, of Chaplin Street, Seaham, admitted two charges of affray.
Jonathan Pigford, defending John Croft, said the serial criminal had "lost his way" when he carried out the offences, which lacked "sophistication" and did not involve any intention to cause injury.
Mr Pigford added: "His behaviour could be described as reckless, cavalier and brazen."
Robin Patton, defending Geoffrey Croft, said although the brothers share the same surname and father they were brought up separately.
Mr Patton said Geoffrey Croft stays out of trouble, has a good work record and his brother had gone to live with him after his last release from prison.
Mr Patton said "their roles couldn't be more different" during the affray, Geoffrey Croft was not armed and added: "He finds himself in the dock on two charges of affray, where he has never threatened anyone, picked up a weapon or indeed used any violence."
Both men will be sentenced next month.
John Croft was remanded in custody and his brother was given bail in them meantime.