Terror in Rowcroft: Judge addresses empty dock

The search is on for violent robber Max Michael Wilson.

A violent robber has been sentenced to 14 years in prison after a terrifying attack on a Honiton family in their own home.

Max Michael Wilson, 24, of no fixed address, who was tried in his absence, was handed the 14-year jail term for aggravated burglary and seven years for possessing a firearm - he will serve a concurrent sentence of 14 years in prison - once police find him.

The burglary took place on Sunday, January 9, 2011, at the home of David and Jennifer Taylor, in Rowcroft Close.

The court heard Mr Taylor had advertised a car for sale and, days before the offence, was contacted by Sharon Isaacs, who, at the time, lived on the Chubbards Cross travellers’ site, in Ilton, where Wilson lived.

A deposit of �100 was paid and the remaining balance of �5,800 was handed over on the Saturday before the offence took place.

Judge Graham Cottle, addressing an empty dock at Exeter Crown Court, said: “The money was still there on January 9 when you targeted, with another, and burst into the home of Mr and Mrs Taylor in order to retrieve the cash that you had the expectation was still in the property.”

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The court heard the Taylors’ son Gary had been at home at the time and was talking with his mum in the kitchen just before 7pm when Wilson and his unidentified accomplice burst into the house wearing black balaclavas and carrying guns - it is unclear whether these were real or imitation.

Judge Cottle also told the court Wilson was in possession of a “sharp and pointy” object, which was thought by Gary Taylor to be a knife.

Mr Cottle added: “It was quite obviously a carefully planned expedition, with one objective in mind.

“Mrs Taylor, a lady not in good health, and her son were subjected to serious threats of violence.”

The court heard how Gary Taylor had tried to stand up to Wilson and was knocked back into his seat where he heard demands: “Where is the money?”.

He got up again but was struck in the face by Wilson’s accomplice and told “You are going to die?”.

His accomplice left the room.

Gary Taylor was stabbed several times and asked “Do you want to die?”

Mr Cottle said: “He (Gary Taylor) started to fight back and showed considerable courage and was eventually able to tear off the balaclava you were wearing that has had two consequences.

“Firstly, it brought this incident to an end and you aborted the mission and, secondly, the balaclava helmet torn from you has formed the foundation of evidence that led to you being convicted by the jury.

“This was planned and very violent and was a professional robbery of people in their own home.

“It could well have been the case that Mrs Taylor could have suffered some sort of heart attack such was the terror she must have felt when being confronted in her own home.”

The court heard Wilson had previous convictions for other offences and has been on the run since February after escaping from Taunton Magistrates’ Court.

Following sentencing, DS Jim Tarr, of Honiton CID, said: “We, like the Taylors, are very pleased with the result that has been passed by the judge.

“It has been a very traumatic incident for the Taylor Family and it is important to recognise the bravery shown by Mr Gary Taylor.

“Without his actions the incident could have been far worse. It may not have led to the recovery of the balaclava, which proved instrumental in securing the conviction at court.

“Our main efforts and focus now is to locate Max Wilson and bring him to justice.”

He added: “This is a particularly rare incident. Devon and Cornwall remains a safe place to live.”

l Wilson is described as being white, 5ft 11ins, average build with blue eyes and dark brown short hair, clean shaven and has a soft West Country accent.

Members of the public are urged not to approach him.

Anyone with information is urged to call police immediately on 999 quoting police reference KH/11/22.

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