A BUNGLING thief inadvertently recorded himself talking to accomplices about his eye-watering wave of crimes across two counties.

Among the estates targeted by Headington man Wayne Axtell was Medmenham Abbey, near Henley, the former home of 19th century secret society the Hellfire Club.

But in the end it was pony-tailed Axtell whose fingers were burned – when police arrested him riding a stolen Segway scooter, seized his phone and discovered a treasure trove of phone calls recorded by the amateurish Raffles in which he talked about his various thefts.

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Defending, Peter du Feu told Oxford Crown Court that his client did not know that his phone’s default setting was to record its calls.

“It is an extraordinary piece of evidence and a real own goal for him,” the barrister added.

Prosecutor Alex Radley said those phone calls helped the police link him to a number of thefts in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire in 2021.

In one phone call, made on March 31 last year, he expressed surprise at having received a letter from the police saying he was being released under investigation having previously been on bail for breaking into a Post Office in Reading Road, Henley, on October 3, 2020, and a Buckingham Costa three days later.

He said he had ‘got away’ with the break-ins, Mr Radley said. An earlier hearing at the magistrates’ court was quoted part of the conversation, in which he addresses what would happen when further DNA checks were made: “That might be the tipping point, the tipping point for the CPS to f***ing charge. I don’t get it. Why the f*** have they not got the glass?”

The glass, it would seem, was not needed. A torch dropped by Axtell during the post office break in, when £131 was snaffled from the till, had his DNA on it.

He was arrested on September 2 last year while riding a Segway scooter that had been stolen during an overnight burglary in Boars Hill four days earlier. 

He had a locknife on him and a phone seized from him during that arrest contained a large number of recordings of voice calls in which he discussed thefts committed between March and August.

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On March 24 last year, Axtell and another man were interrupted while they  photographed a horse trailer in a farmyard in Beckley, north of Oxford. The farmer and his wife pursued the men, who ran off across fields, but were unable to detain them. “She was brave, that old bird,” Axtell told an associate the following day.

The phone conversations also linked the defendant to the theft of high value ride-on lawnmowers and gardening tools at, among other sites, Nuneham Park, near Oxford, and Medmenham Abbey, between Henley and Marlow.

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Axtell, of Cecil Sharp Way, Headington, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to conspiracy to steal, non-dwelling burglary, handling stolen goods and possession of a blade. His basis of plea, which was not wholly accepted by the prosecution, was that he acted as a driver for the theft gang.

He also asked for 13 other thefts to be taken into consideration.

Mr du Feu said his client, who had long suffered with drug addiction, got involved in the theft conspiracy in order to pay off his then partner’s drug debt.

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The ungrateful partner sent him what was described to the court as a ‘Dear John’ letter while he was on remand, breaking off their relationship.

“All his attempts to support her have, I’m afraid, come to naught for him,” Mr du Feu said.

Jailing Axtell for four years on Thursday afternoon, Judge Nigel Daly said: “In your letter you make it clear you have, as Mr du Feu says on your behalf, had enough of this and you want to change it. I can’t change it; that is something you’ve got to do.”

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward