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Grand Designs architect David Liddicoat feels unsafe in ‘dream home’ in Whitstable after attempted armed raid

An award-winning architect who designed and built his “dream home” on the Kent coast says it no longer feels safe following an attempted armed raid at the property.

David Liddicoat, whose work has featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs, was at the house in Whitstable with his partner and their two children at the time of the terrifying ordeal.

Bodycam footage shows Danny Mcguire being arrested following the attempted raid at David Liddicoat's house in Whitstable. Pic: Kent Police
Bodycam footage shows Danny Mcguire being arrested following the attempted raid at David Liddicoat's house in Whitstable. Pic: Kent Police

He and his family retreated upstairs and called 999 as a teenager armed with two knives and another man tried to kick their way into the home, before police arrived and the pair were arrested.

As those responsible were put behind bars, Mr Liddicoat told a judge how the attempted break-in has left him contemplating a move away.

“The attack happened a few months after we had finished building our dream home, but we have since considered selling and leaving the house,” he said.

“I previously felt that Whitstable was a safe place, but my home no longer feels like a sanctuary for me or my young children.”

Canterbury Crown Court was told Mr Liddicoat “stood in shock” after being confronted on his doorstep late at night by the would-be raiders.

Initially alerted by rattling at a rear patio door and ringing at his doorbell, he had opened his front door to be faced by 17-year-old Owen Lake and 28-year-old Danny McGuire.

The younger of the pair was brandishing two blades - one later described by the victim as a “most frightening” sword.

But after uttering a menacing demand and trying to wedge the door open with the weapons, their attempt to burgle the property was thwarted when the startled homeowner managed to slam the door shut, deadlock it and then retreat upstairs with his frightened family.

From there, and having dialled 999, they began shouting from windows in the hope of scaring away the intruders and alerting neighbours.

The court heard police eventually arrived after a second call was made by Mr Liddicoat’s partner, Sophie Goldhill.

Lake was arrested in the street outside and a dog handler tracked down McGuire to his hiding place under a nearby hedge.

Lake, now 18, and of Seeshill Close, Whitstable, later admitted attempted aggravated burglary and having a bladed article.

McGuire, of no fixed address but with links to Whitstable, was convicted following a trial in January of attempted aggravated burglary, but found not guilty of wielding a knife.

Mr Liddicoat, whose projects include an 18th-century barn conversion in Folkestone, which featured on Grand Designs, described his terrifying encounter with the pair shortly before 11.30pm on May 31.

I previously felt that Whitstable was a safe place, but my home no longer feels like a sanctuary for me or my young children...

Giving evidence to the jury via a link from France, he told the court he was just getting into bed when he heard rattling and a metal clanging noise at the ground-floor bedroom door.

With his children in their bedrooms - one asleep and one awake - and his wife in their dressing room, he initially believed the sound to be coat hangers.

But having realised he was mistaken and then hearing the front doorbell ringing, Mr Liddicoat went to investigate, thinking the caller may have been a neighbour.

“I started to think something strange was going on and so I just grabbed my dressing gown and went immediately to the front door,” he told jurors.

“I could see a figure outside the door. There is street lighting outside and we have automatic lights that come on in the hallway, so it illuminated the person at the door.

“Perhaps stupidly, I opened the door to find out what they wanted. I saw the first male standing slightly to the left, immediately outside the front door.

“Immediately after opening the door, the second figure appeared to the right of the person who had rung the doorbell.”

Having described the younger male as having “wonky teeth and a scrawny, sallow face with a patchy beard and messy hair”, and his accomplice as “red-faced as if hot, drunk or flushed”, Mr Liddicoat explained how the drama at his home in Whitstable unfolded.

He also explained he had not seen either man before that night.

“When I answered the door, the first male had his arms folded and the first thing he said to me was something like ‘What it is mate’ or ‘What I need to say mate is this’, like he was about to tell me something that had happened,” Mr Liddicoat told the jury.

“The second male stepped out of the darkness at exactly that moment. I said something like ‘OK’ and at that point the first male straightened both arms away from him so they were in front of him and in the doorway.

“In his right hand he had a very long, flat, bladed object. It was pointing towards the ground at first. It was shiny; the blade was around an inch to an inch-and-a-half wide and about a foot-and-a-half long.

“At first I thought it was a sword or knife but it happened so quickly, it had the same dimensions as a crowbar.

“He had a shorter bladed object in his left hand. The blade was about four to six inches long.”

Mr Liddicoat alleged the second male - McGuire - was also armed with a small kitchen knife, but the jury subsequently acquitted him of that charge.

Danny Mcguire and Owen Lake were sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court
Danny Mcguire and Owen Lake were sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court

Continuing to describe the doorstep confrontation, Mr Liddicoat said that male one was within “touching distance”, with his accomplice standing slightly behind.

“At that point the first male kind of squared up to me, raised the weapons and said ‘Give me your f***ing’ something. I didn’t hear the last word.

“I put my left hand on the door and as soon as he pulled the weapons and started saying this and stepping towards me, I slammed the door as hard as I could.

“The first male pushed the weapons at the open side of the door and they were wedged in so the door bounced against the blades the first few times.

“I think it was about three to five times. I just banged the door repeatedly with my hand.”

Mr Liddicoat said as he was trying to close the door he had shouted at his wife, who had followed him into the corridor, “Get back, they’re armed”, prompting her to dial 999.

However, once shut outside the property, Lake then began to repeatedly kick the glass-panelled door with force.

Mr Liddicoat told the court he had “no idea whatsoever” what was happening and had “stood in shock” as the men looked back at him through the glass before the kicking began.

He and Ms Goldhill then grabbed the children from their bedrooms and fled to the upstairs living room.

“We just decided the safest thing to do was to get as far away [from the door] in the house,” he continued.

“We were holding onto the children and occasionally leaving the front room to go and look out the windows to try and see where the men were.

“After we had phoned police, we started shouting out the windows in the hope that would make the men go away, and I think that shouting drew our neighbours out opposite.”

Mr Liddicoat said they thought the would-be burglars had left, only to realise they had simply fled to a building site next door and were still attempting to access their house via scaffolding and through a side window.

At first I thought it was a sword or knife but it happened so quickly, it had the same dimensions as a crowbar...

His wife then phoned police for a second time, with officers eventually arriving as Lake walked off down the road.

A wooden-handled knife with a bent blade was later found hidden behind a ladder outside the property and a broken tip of another weapon inside the doorway.

The court heard that a neighbour told police how he had gone outside his home to smoke a cigarette, only to see “at least” two males at Mr Liddicoat’s front door, with one “violently kicking” it as many as 10 times and shouting “very loudly” before running off.

Jurors were told it was accepted that the man referred to by Mr Liddicoat as male one was Lake and McGuire was male two.

Both had been drinking lager throughout the afternoon and evening, and McGuire said Lake had been knocking on doors in the road to scrounge a lift to an all-night garage to buy more alcohol.

McGuire, however, maintained that he was not armed, was not involved in deliberately targeting an expensive property in a bid to burgle it, and had in fact run off when he was “shocked” by the sight of the teenager drawing his two knives.

He told the court he hid in the hedge out of panic because he did not want to be arrested for something the teenager had done.

He claimed he then fell asleep and only awoke on arrest after being sniffed out by a police dog.

But at the start of his trial prosecutor Andrew Hallworth said the attempted armed break-in was a joint enterprise between the pair.

Ring doorbell footage captured Lake knocking at another house in the same street and trying the door handle about five minutes before they were both seen on CCTV walking towards Mr Liddicoat’s front door.

“The evidence supports the fact these two were acting in consort together. Both were there in encouragement of that attempt to burgle that property,” explained Mr Hallworth.

McGuire, who is also known as Danny Smith, told the court he had only known Lake for about a week when the incident occurred, having met while living across the road from each other in Whitstable.

The jury also heard of McGuire’s six previous convictions for burglary committed between 2010 and 2018.

Mitigating for Lake, who has a previous conviction for knife-related crime, Brad Lawlor argued he had been taken advantage of by his older accomplice.

“He was the younger party in this case, and because of his learning difficulties and mental health issues, it is very clear that he was exploited,” argued Mr Lawlor.

He has done several lengthy sentences, but he is genuinely remorseful for what he’s done...

“It was Mr McGuire that was taking the leading role and Mr Lake being led.”

McGuire’s lawyer, Phillip Hill, said he had experienced exploitation and trauma in his childhood and was driven to commit crimes from an early age because of poverty.

“He said that he got into crime because of financial hardship,” explained Mr Hill.

“He would find himself at home without electricity and without food, so from a very young age he was going out burgling houses, always accompanied by an adult, to get something to eat.

“He has done several lengthy sentences, but he is genuinely remorseful for what he’s done.

“He is someone who has insight into his behaviour and has a desire to rehabilitate himself.”

Sentencing, Judge Mark Weeks highlighted how terrifying the episode must have been for the family.

“This was a very serious incident indeed and has had long-stretching consequences,” he said.

“What happened after must have been very frightening indeed - two men, one of whom was armed, circling their home, at night.

“They must have feared this was about to be a home-invasion burglary.”

Lake was sentenced to 38 months in a young offenders’ institute, from which he will be released after serving half the term.

But the judge assessed McGuire as a dangerous offender and gave him an extended sentence.

He was jailed for seven years, of which he will serve at least two-thirds in prison before he is considered for release, after which he will also spend an extra three years on licence.

Police would not release a custody image of Lake because he was 17 when arrested.

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