THREE men from Flintshire have appeared in court charged in relation to a burglary that left an empty building “ransacked” causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Two of the men, Luke Laidlaw, 28, of no fixed abode and Darren Hughes, 35 of Riverside Park, Garden City, denied both charges of burglary and going equipped to carry out a burglary, while Leigh May, 26, of George Kenyan Mews, Saltney, pleaded guilty to the latter offence after he was found at the scene with a bag of tools, including and axe and several hacksaws.

The trial at Mold Crown Court heard how the three defendants and another unknown male, allegedly gained access to Millennium House, on Chester Road in Broughton, in order to steel valuable copper piping, and in pursuit of doing so caused damage later estimated to be worth at least £118,000.

The four had been been observed on CCTV exiting a white Volkswagen estate vehicle shortly before 9pm on August 15 2017. The presence of both the vehicle and the men was most unusual according the security officer operating the cameras, because the road in question was a service road at the rear of Tesco on Broughton Retail Park and not used by the public.

David Maidstone, prosecuting, told the court that three of the men seen on the footage were indisputably Laidlaw, Hughes and May, while the fourth man and the driver of the vehicle both remained unknown.

Mr Maidstone added one of the men, Hughes, was seen carrying a black JD Sports drawstring bag, which he said was the same one later seized by police officers and found to contain an axe, hacksaws, saw blades and several pairs of gloves.

At the time it was seized, the bag was in the possession of May, who was found by an officer curled up, lying on the floor, under some bushes. He was described by one police officer as being so wet “it was as if he had been swimming fully clothed” and told her how he had been paid £50 to act as a “look out”.

After exiting the car, the CCTV had shown all four the men walk down a across a footbridge and down a footpath, which led to Millennium House, and several minutes later, them gaining access to the grounds of the building, which had been vacant and boarded up since May of that year.

A call was made to North Wales Police and several officers attended the scene, some via the main entrance on Chester Road, two others via the service road at the rear of Tesco. While looking around the area, one male, wearing grey tracksuit bottoms and a dark blue top was saw by running across waste ground in the direction of Tesco. It was alleged that this male was Hughes, and that the same man then removed his blue top and was seen carrying it while wearing a white Nike T-shirt, before he entered the Cine World cinema. Hughes was later arrested in the toilets of the cinema and described as being “soaking wet” and upon carrying out a search, a head torch was found in one of the toilet bowls, which is alleged to have been discarded there by him. After being arrested, Hughes told officers he had “done nothing wrong” and had just been “out for a run”.

Sgt Gavin Gilmore, who conducted a search of Millennium House on the night in question, said the building had been accessed at the rear, where one of the boards had been removed and a shattered pain of glass was found. Once inside, Sgt Gilmore said he saw piles of copper piping stacked up against a wall and that the damage that had been caused around the entire building was some of the most extensive he had ever seen, and that water could be seen “gushing” from pipes, which had resulted in the floor being completely flooded.

Alan Barker, centre manager for British Land Company, who own the building, said the building had been “ransacked” with radiators ripped off the walls and two companies who had visited the site to provide quotes on repairing it had provided figures ranging from just over £118,000 to in excess of £132,750.

The trial continues.