The Victoria Wine Trial and Operation Accentor

1982: The Victoria Wine Trial Operation Accentor:106

On the 20 February 1984 the trial of six men accused of conspiracy to commit burglaries throughout the county at Victoria Wine and Tesco stores opened at Kingston Crown Court.

The trial ran for twenty one weeks concluding on 12th June with the conviction of four of the offenders who received lengthy terms of imprisonment. The trial was at that time the lengthiest trial at Kingston Crown Court requiring a jury panel of seventy six to be called before the jury was formed of people able to site for a prolonged period.

The trial was a culmination of eight months intensive investigation by officers of the Surrey Special Crime Patrol Unit (Burglary Squad) led by Detective Inspector Roger Hawkins, supported by Detective Sergeant John Beavis and Detective Constable John Lane.

The court file ran to five hundred and sixty three pages of evidence and involved the investigation of one hundred and five burglaries throughout the country. This required nine hundred and ninety five submissions to the Forensic Science Service following crimes from Kings Lynn to Redhill including many in London. One hundred and seven witnesses gave evidence and a large number of statements of undisputed evidence were read to the court.

The offences were similar and involved the use of a hydraulic jack to breach the stock rooms of Victoria Wine or Tesco by knocking out bricks to the external walls and then removing vast quantities of cigarettes. For the last twelve months similar offences were being committed across the land from Manchester to Deal and when Redhill was hit the Burglary Squad became involved.

Information was soon provided as to the offenders and their vehicles and importantly details of how they were avoiding detection. They had access to a large van sign written to represent a legitimate cleaning firm "24 Hour Cleaning in Offices, Shops & Factories." This was a perfect front for movement at all hours.

A surveillance operation led by the Burglary Squad was mounted with a view to arresting the offenders whilst committing offences. The teams followed them to a number of premises in Nuneaton, Sevenoaks and Purley but they did not burgle the premises. One of the suspects discovered an item of police technical equipment on his vehicle and this led to the arrest of the team for conspiracy to commit burglary.

The suspects unsurprisingly gave little away during interviews and so the Squad had to investigate one hundred and five burglaries and take statements, evaluate the evidence and submit the file for prosecution all of which took six to eight months. The value of property stolen amounted to more than one and a half million pounds.

During the trial an officer was followed from the court and the registered numbers obtained from his car. A similar car was stolen and the registered number added the vehicles to be driven by someone resembling two of the officers who were dealing with the case. The criminals were told to approach two jurors as they left the court in order to personate police when stopping the jurors and demanding they convict the prisoners. They then drove off in the car with the police officer's registration number.

All this was revealed to the police by an informant and trial Judge Rubens was informed at the Crown Court. The judge insisted that the informant gave evidence in open court which he did. This was no doubt a hard decision for all concerned given the gravity of the allegations but the only way to convince the jury and others was to take the action the judge did.

Four of the offenders were convicted two having been released earlier on the direction of the judge.

Newspaper picture of the officers with their awards

The Chief Constable Highly Commended Roger Hawkins, John Beavis and John Lane; with Commendations for John Spence, Ian Moran, Tim Oriordan, Geoff Drabble, Brian Lloyd, Dave Amos, Peter Cairns, Keith Chapman, Barry Siviers, and Ray Taylor.

Ian Moram: It was my car they got the details of and me they were going to get the double for. The witness concerned who gave the information was a villain I had dealings with before and he was bussed in from Brixton Prison where he was on remand for burglaries. He gave his evidence in court without the jury being present. Two weeks later he had both his legs broken in Brixton Prison.

John Beavis: I was instructed by the head of CID at the time to keep my Detective's Diary up to date of my whereabouts for 24/7 until the end of the trial.

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106 From notes of John Lane retired detective constable Surrey Constabulary.


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