SET deep in the heart of the Worcestershire countryside, about eight miles west of Worcester, Lovely Cottage was well named. Black and white and thatched, with eyebrow windows, it could grace the cover of any chocolate box. But what went on there one summer’s evening in 1986 was anything but lovely.

As retired antiques dealer Graham Rosenthal opened the front door at around 8pm to let the family dog out, he was suddenly confronted by two gun wielding masked thugs. They pushed him back inside, then grabbed his wife Ann, who had come to his aid, and tied up the couple with electric cables.

Robbery was the motive and after holding the pistol to Mr Rosenthal’s head and threatening to cut out Ann’s kneecaps with a knife they fetched from the kitchen, Frederick Griffiths and David Edwards escaped with £7,500 worth of antiques, cash and jewellery. They made their way to a rendezvous with their getaway driver Alfred Morris and disappeared into the night.

But these three were not the sharpest knives in the criminal drawer. For a start Griffiths and Edwards drove away from Lovely Cottage in the Rosenthal’s car, which was one of the most distinctive vehicles in the neighbourhood, a gleaming white Skoda with  personal number plates. Remember this was 34 years ago, when apart from those of the rich and famous not many cars had private plates. The robbers ditched it a mile away and it was soon discovered, along with evidence they left behind.

Then later the same evening the bungling trio managed to get themselves arrested after refusing to pay the bill at an Indian restaurant in Worcester. Police called to the Anarkali restaurant in The Tything recognised the Welsh voice of Edwards from a description given to them by Mr Rosenthal, who had employed him to tile a bathroom a few weeks before.

At Worcester Crown Court in January 1987, former head chef Frederick Kim Griffiths, aged 37, of Blakefield Walk, Worcester, and his drinking pal David Edwards, 31, an unemployed rigger of Comer Road, Worcester pleaded guilty to robbery and were each jailed for ten years by Judge Michael Mott.  At a separate hearing, 44-year-old Alfred Morris admitted burglary and handling stolen goods and was sent to prison for five years.

The gun that Griffiths and Edwards used to threaten the Rosenthals was a replica pistol, but at the time the victims did not know that. Graham Rosenthal, who had retired from business two years before, suffering from heart and spinal problems, was later to say: “They seemed pretty adamant about the threats they were making. One of the men went absolutely berserk, screaming hysterically and I managed to recognise his Welsh accent as someone who done some tiling for me in the bathroom about a month before.”

The pair crept across grass fields to reach the isolated cottage at Ockeridge, near Wichenford, and once inside spent 30 minutes ransacking the place looking for a safe which did not exist. Instead they departed with a haul which included antique clocks, valuable ivory tusks, jewellery and cash. They left Mr Rosenthal, aged 60, and his 52-years-old wife tied up, but Ann eventually managed to wriggle free and raised the alarm.

Jailing Griffiths and Edwards, Judge Mott told them: “This was a drunken, clumsy crime. I accept you are not professional robbers, but you used professional methods and weapons. This was a terrifying experience for Mr and Mrs Rosenthal in their own home. You subjected them to fear and gross humiliation.” He praised the Rosenthals for their ”fortitude and courage” during the raid.

In mitigation, Edwards’ barrister Graham Clift said the pair had been drinking all day before the robbery and his client felt “hard done by” because he had not been paid for the tiling job, although he admitted not completing it.

The case had a sequel six month later when all three defendant saw their sentences cut at the Court of Appeal. Griffiths and Edwards had their ten year jail terms reduced to eight and Morris’s five year prison sentence became three and a half. Mr Justice Peter Pain said it was felt the original sentences did not reflect the defendants’ early guilty pleas.

He added: “Some of the horrors that went on inside the cottage must have rubbed off when it came to sentencing”. Although the appeal judges emphasised they did not wish to underestimate the “appalling ordeal” of Graham and Ann Rosenthal.