Treasures plundered after dealer was beaten to death - jury is told

An antiques dealer was murdered in his home by an attacker who plundered a hoard of gold and silver over his victim’s dead body, a jury has heard.

Thursday, 21st November 2013, 11:24 am
Peter Battle

Father-of-two Peter Battle was battered to death by Graham Richardson, 27, who may have “snapped” after spying a “treasure trove” in the cottage, it was claimed.

Richardson was already on bail for robbing another gold dealer. He was broke because the loot had been seized by police, Teesside Crown Court was told.

The accused robber was desperate for cash and the jury was told Mr Battle may have been targeted because he was “not shy” of boasting about his wealth.

He also kept a collection of gold, silver, and boxes of watches lying around on every surface of his home, it was said.

After beating his victim to death – possibly with one of his own antiques - Richardson spent five weeks selling the pieces at rock-bottom prices, it was claimed.

Mr Battle, a 56-year-old amateur gold and silver trader, was born and bred in York and lived alone at Whisker Cottage, Full Sutton.

He had been married but split from his wife in 1996 and had two grown up daughters who lived in Scotland with their mother.

After his marriage broke down, he had other relationships but had lived alone for three or four years, it was said.

Prosecuting QC Nicholas Lumley told the jury Mr Battle was a well-known figure at auctions.

“He regularly bought and sold silver pieces, watches and anything else which took his eye. He would then sell them on via eBay or at auction,” Mr Lumley added.

“A weakness of his, it seems, was to be a little boastful of the money he had and the money he was prepared to spend at auctions.

“Sometimes, he carried £1,000 at a time and was, perhaps, not shy about it.”

He said as Richardson “became ever more desperate for money, he flicked mentally through his little black book of contacts” searching for anyone who might be a source of easy cash.

The jury heard there was an exchange of emails between Richardson and Mr Battle in which Richardson claimed to have thousands of pounds to spend on items.

No one knew what happened when Richardson called at the cottage on 30 December.

He may have pleaded for credit or “snapped” when he found himself surrounded by all the valuables Mr Battle kept around his house, Mr Lumley claimed.

The prosecutor added: “No murder weapon has ever been found but the house was a rich source of heavy ornaments – lethal weapons in the wrong, angry hands.

“No one can say for sure the precise course which events then took - but what followed was a vicious and sustained attack.”

Mr Battle lay dead from a shattered skull for five weeks, during which Richardson returned time and again, the court was told.

He helped himself to trinkets, jewellery, and pieces of gold and silver which he sold to pawnbrokers and jewellers “to line his own pockets”, the prosecution claimed.

Mr Lumley alleged he went straight to those who would give the lowest price “while, more likely than not, asking no questions”.

It is claimed he used some of the cash to buy a car, telling the salesman: “As long as it starts, I’ll have it.”

Mr Lumley continued: “He gave gold and silver items to friends – to settle debts.

“He even gave items as gifts to family and loved ones – playing the generous grandson when all along he knew that he had plundered the home of the man he had killed.”

The court heard he posted notes on the door of Mr Battle’s cottage, saying he had gone away, and hung up a bed sheet to stop people looking in.

But friends eventually became suspicious and called police who forced their way in.

It is also alleged that “three short weeks” earlier Richardson and two other men, Peter Egan and his cousin Darren Archer, robbed gold dealer Michael Cleaver of £4,100 with an axe in a York street.

Richardson, of Riverside View, Norton, alone is accused of murdering Mr Battle, which he denies.

Egan, 48, then of Walmgate, and Archer, 43, of Nunnery Lane, both York, deny robbing Mr Cleaver.

Mr Lumley told the jury: “Money, drugs and desperation drive people to act in different ways - some more shocking than others.

“In the space of three weeks, these three men, driven by the need - and greed - for money, were involved in serious crime.

“It culminated in the killing of an innocent man.”