Family guilty of fraud after earning £ 1.7million from antiques stolen from Bedford retiree Bedford News

Family members stole rare and valuable antiques from a Bedford retiree and then auctioned them off for £ 1.7million.

An investigation by the Bedfordshire Police Serious Fraud Investigation Unit proved to the Luton Crown Court jury that five people linked to the Pickersgill family were involved in the fraud, in which dozens valuable jade and ivory ornaments were stolen over a period of six years.

Des Pickersgill, 83, did occasional work for the victim, who is now 90, at her home in Wilstead.

Family members stole items and sold them at Bonhams of London
Family members stole items and sold them at Bonhams of London

Meanwhile, his son Gary Pickersgill, 42, and his wife Sarah Pickersgill, 40, have gone from the edge of evicting their home in Bedford to buying a luxury home with a pool, paddocks and a and a half hectares of land in Spalding, Lincolnshire for around £ 410,000 as of March 2014, all with no mortgage and apparently no income to pay.

It all started with an investigation into a burglary at the victim’s home in September 2017, where it was suspected that oriental jade and ivory antiques had been stolen.

An antiques expert employed by the insurance company involved in the claim discovered that three items captured from the family’s photo album had in fact been sold at auctioneers Bonhams of London – but in November 2013, November 2014 and June 2015.

One of them was a very rare pale green jade teapot, which had sold at Bonhams in Hong Kong for HK $ 5,920,000 – the equivalent of around £ 527,000.

It was the only such teapot that had been sold in the previous 20 years. It has been identified as identical to the teapot stolen from the victim, due to very slight natural discoloration or a defect in the top edge under the lid.

Two other extremely rare jade items belonging to the victim were also sold: a mug and lid which sold for around £ 127,000, and a jade bird box which sold for £ 7,000.

Police investigations with Bonhams established that two auction accounts had sold over 40 items of ancient oriental jade, ivory and bronze in their auctions from November 2011 to May 2017, for a total of approximately 1 , £ 7million.

One belonged to Des Pickersgill, who lived within 100 yards of the victim, while the other belonged to his son Gary Pickersgill.

Some £ 1.56million of those payments went into the account controlled by Gary. Financial investigations carried out by both Bedfordshire Police and HMRC also established that much of this money was later transferred to Gary’s wife, Sarah.

The three of them had taxable income over this period of around £ 13,000, Des having drawn on his state pension since the first sale to Bonhams.

In July 2018, simultaneous search warrants at addresses in Wilstead and Skegness resulted in the recovery of pendants and ornaments at both addresses, which were identified by family members of the victim as part of their collection.

During an interview, Des confirmed that he did some gardening for the victim, but claimed that he received small pots and ornaments as gifts on several occasions. Gary made a prepared statement and did not respond to any comments on any questions.

Investigations of Gary’s text messages on Gary’s phone then established that he had discussed the auction of additional lots with Kevin and Tracey Wigmore, who lived near his home in Skegness.

Kevin had opened an account with Bonhams and sold three items for over £ 60,000. Family members of the victim again identified these items as from their jade collection, while a receipt recovered from Wigmore’s address was for the sale of these items by Gary Pickersgill.

Yesterday (Monday) at Luton Crown Court:

Des Pickersgill, 83, of Clyde Crescent, Bedford, has been convicted of theft, fraud and conversion of criminal property.

Gary Pickersgill, 42, of Saxby Avenue, Skegness, was convicted of theft, fraud and two counts of converting criminal property.

Sarah Pickersgill, 40, of Saxby Avenue, Skegness, has been convicted of conversion of criminal property.

Kevin Wigmore, 47, of Sapphire Close, Orby, has been convicted of fraud and criminal property conversion.

Tracey Wigmore, 49, of Sapphire Close, Orby, has been convicted of fraud and conversion of criminal assets.

All five are expected to be sentenced at an upcoming court date in August.

Investigator Dave Brecknock said: “I have no doubt that Des and Gary Pickersgill have devised a plan to prey on an elderly and vulnerable victim, steal these precious artifacts and make a small fortune.

“This was a premeditated, devious and despicable criminal conspiracy which caused unspeakable concern to the victim and his family.”

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This notice was published: 2021-07-13 16:56:43

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