Top trainer robbed of £100,000 by gunmen
ONE OF Britain's leading horse trainers and his wife were robbed of more than £100,000 (€113,000) in cash after masked raiders smashed their way into their remote luxury farmhouse and ordered them to empty the safe.
Howard Johnson said he feared the two robbers, whom he described as calm and professional, would have killed them both had he not been able to hand over the money, which he was saving to buy his wife her "dream" holiday cottage.
With more than 60 winners to his name this season and prize money totalling £220,000 (€250,000), Mr Johnson had just returned from one of the busiest racing weekends of the year at Aintree -- where one of his horses, Royal Rosa, had been running in Saturday's British Grand National.
Speaking yesterday, he said he was accustomed to "hoarding" large amounts of cash at his house, a habit he developed when he was a heavy gambler.
The 56-year-old described hearing a "horrendous thud" as he read the newspaper at White Lea Farm, which has an indoor pool and stands behind imposing stone walls on a hill above the former pit village of Roddymoor in Co Durham, on Sunday night.
The men burst in before 10.30pm, shoving Mr Johnson against a glass door as he tried to stop them entering.
He suffered a cut arm and was held at gunpoint by one of the pair while the second, brandishing a 7in knife, went upstairs where his wife, Sue, was resting. He dragged her out of bed and marched her downstairs.
Ignoring the trainer's insistence that he did not have any money on the premises, one of the balaclava-clad intruders led him to the safe, held the firearm to his head and gave him 30 seconds to open the door.
At first he tried to hand over just £2,000 (€2,262) but the gunman told him to fetch more, shouting: "You are wealthy, you are wealthy."
Mr Johnson was forced to hand over all the cash, which he said amounted to his entire savings over the last six years. (© Independent News Service)