June 20, 2024

Image shows scene where the drama occurred in Javerlhac-et-la-Chapelle-Sainte-Robert. Photo for illustration only Pic: Google Street View
The robbers who hauled a British man from his bed at gunpoint at 4:00 and then shot him as they made their getaway in his Aston Martin walked free today (September 27) after receiving lenient sentences of probation from a Dordogne court.
One of the robbers was himself a Briton living locally.
David Dunsby, 63, needed an operation to remove 10 shotgun pellets from his leg, chest and face, and spent two nights in hospital after the attack in March 2021.
One of the pellets was close to a major artery and the ones in his face just missed his eye.
He also needed psychiatric help to deal with post traumatic stress disorder with the court hearing that the events in Javerlhac-et-la-Chapelle-Saint-Robert in Dordogne were potentially a “time bomb waiting to go off” for his mental health.
Read more: British man shot defending car from burglars in Dordogne, court told
At the time of the arrest of the two robbers, the receiver of the stolen goods who was depicted as a Fagan-like character sending out his “little soldiers” to collect cars, and four other men, charged with associated receiving and another burglary for a Chevrolet Corvette car from a British holiday home, mobilised around 100 gendarmes in Charente and Dordogne.
The case gave the impression of being the breaking open of a gang, prepared to shoot to kill and specialised in stealing valuable cars from British residents in order to resell them
But by the time the case came to the Périgueux court, the hearing had been downgraded to a simple criminal tribunal case and the original attempted murder charges downgraded to burglary with aggravating factors, and receiving stolen goods.
All the six accused walked free on probation.
The court heard the robbery for the Aston Martin and the burglary for the Corvette were the result of “impulsive decisions” taken in the context of late-night drink, cannabis and cocaine-fuelled parties in an Angoulême squat.
“My client accepts now that he was the victim of very bad luck, in that he became the target of an impulsive decision by two men out of control while under the influence of drugs, and not the target of an gang specialised in stealing expensive motorcars,” avocat David Larrat, who represented Mr Dunsby as a civil party in the case, said.
“He wants to stress to the court that he is not a rich chateau owner but someone who considers himself a worker, a hard worker who is an engineer on oil fields in difficult parts of the world, who compares his situation with his attackers, who had no jobs at the time, were on benefits and spent their time drinking and taking drugs.”
Mr Dunsby is presently working in Australia and was advised by doctors that due to a recent knee replacement operation, not related to the attack, he should not fly home to France for the trial, “something which is a disappointment as he has confidence in French justice,” said Maître Larrat.
The two robbers of Mr Dunsby, Karol Cieszynski, 32, of Angoulême, but who used to live in Javerlhac-et-la-Chapelle-Sainte-Robert and Toby Powell, 19, of Nontron, served 17 months and eight months in detention before trial.
Cieszynski, who came to France from Poland as an 11 year old, said he intends to move back with his father and work with him as a builder, repairing roofs in Ribérac.
A tall rangy man, with a star tattooed on his neck, he told the court he lost his way after breaking up with his girlfriend with whom he has two children.
In 2020, he and his father fell out after he arrived drunk at work and he was unemployed at the time of the robbery but they had since made up and his father had visited him in prison.
Powell came to France as a four year old but told the court he had a difficult time in his teens as his parents’ marriage broke up.
Standing around 1.82 metres high, with a neat haircut and dressed in smart shirt, jeans, and Nike boat shoes, he looked like a fresh-faced sixth former.
He started a CAP course to become a cook, working in a Brantôme hotel kitchen but dropped the course to work full time, then left the work “because the hours were too long and restricting for a 16-year-old.”
After meeting Cieszynski three or four years ago, he said he used to go out partying with him to escape his home and Nontron, which he described as a “town for depressives.”
He was detained for eight months after his arrest, before being bailed, and starting to work again at the hotel in Brantôme where he started, initially on a trial, but now with a full-time permanent contract taking care of entrées and desserts.
He had a problem getting a Brexit WA carte de séjour because he was in prison at the time of the deadline to do so but now has one.
On the night of the robbery he said it was a “spur of the moment” decision when Cieszynski said they should steal the Aston Martin, and they then drove in Cieszynski’s Peugeot 308 car (stolen in Spain and fitted with false French plates) towards Javerlhac-et-la-Chapelle-Sainte-Robert, stopping near Cieszynski’s parents’ house to get the gun from a hide-out in a wood and getting dressed in surgical masks, gloves, hoods and sunglasses.
Cieszynski made him leave his mobile phone and wallet at the hide, and Powell said it was only when the gun twice went off accidentally that he had second thoughts, “but by then I could not back out.”
The gun was later examined by experts, who found the safety catch did not work but it would only fire if the trigger was pulled.
Mr Dunsby's statement, summarised to the court, told how he was hauled violently from bed, allowed to dress and then marched downstairs by the two robbers.
He realised they were high on drugs, something he had seen before on the oil fields he worked on, and that the risk of being shot in his home was high.
Making a dash for the door, thinking they would be less likely to shoot outside as the shot would wake the village, he was tackled by Ciesynski, but managed to get out into the street, shouting and fighting Ciesynski, who called on Powell to help.
Powell then hit Mr Dunsby on the jaw before running into the house and finding the keys to the Aston Martin on a kitchen worktop.
Powell then opened the right-hand-drive Aston Martin, something which needs coded clicks of the key fob, and got in the passenger side “because he did not have a driving licence,” while Cuesynski ran back to the car.
Before getting in he shot Mr Dunsby, who was 15 metres away, claiming later though he shot into the ground and had no idea hit Mr Dunsby.
At the time he was still wearing sunglasses, mask, gloves and hood, and told the court he was “dazed” due to the drink and drugs he had consumed, and the struggle with Mr Dunsby, who he said, continued to chavirer (slang for looking for a fight).
The judge rebuked him for using the term, “given the circumstances we have heard.”
“If I knew I hit him I would have stopped,” said Cieszynski, “but he was still standing.”
“I don’t want to kill anyone.”
The car was flashed at 190km/h on the Angoulême bypass 30 minutes later and spotted in the street by chance by patrolling police four days later.
DNA analysis of traces left in the car led to the unravelling of the gang, with investigators tapping their phones.
The gang was rounded up after the second burglary at La-Chapelle-Montmoreau, near Nontron, where the Corvette, gold coins, silver bars, computers, fine wine and a television, estimated at €62,000, were stolen from the British holiday home by Cieszynski and another French man, also after a drink and drug filled evening. 
They had first broken into the garage expecting to find a Ferrari but then broke into the house, but were so disorganised they had to make two trips to steal all the items away.
A Kosovan, Sokol Hoti, 38, of Angoulême, who admitted receiving both the Aston Martin and the Corvette, who was detained for 17 months, was equally freed on probation.
The court heard that Cieszynski owed him money for a car and for cocaine.
Mr Hoti said he had sold the Corvette, later found burnt out, “to gypsies” he did not know for €500.
The court also ordered that €14,500 in costs be paid to Mr Dunsby for the physical and mental harm done to him.
It is very rare in France that such costs orders are met.
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