A father-of-two stole gold jewellery from his partner’s mother before selling it to a cash-for-gold shop, a court heard.
Denying a single charge of theft, Stephen Plumridge, 32, claimed he bought the items in good faith off three men and then ‘unwittingly’ sold them to Emerald Aisle Jewellers in Lancaster.
But he was found guilty of stealing a collection of 9ct rings, necklaces, chains, bracelets and watches, belonging to Carolyn Loxam, from her farmhouse at Crag Bank Road, Carnforth.
Plumridge took the items on occasions when he looked after the property with his then partner of ten years Tracey Loxam - the mother of his two and five-year-old sons - while her parents were on holiday earlier this year.
Lancaster magistrates heard that after returning from a holiday in May, Mrs Loxam noticed several jewellery items had been stolen.
She later spotted one of her stolen gold rings – originally her mother’s - in the window of the shop in Sir Simons Arcade and contacted police.
In June, Mrs Loxam’s husband Peter died unexpectedly, compounding the family’s devastation.
The jewellery included pieces Mr Loxam had bought her from a collection built up over a lifetime and items passed down generations of family.
Plumridge, now of Crossfield Road, Risborough, Buckinghamshire, told the court he was at the Loxams’ home alone in late January refurbishing alloy wheels in the garage where he was visited by three men who were interested in buying the wheels.
He allowed one of them, he said, to use the toilet at the house. The men left without buying the alloys but said they would be in touch and contacted him two weeks later offering him jewellery for sale, he said.
Plumridge told the court he paid the men £200 for jewellery, a car amplifier and a power drill.
On February 7, he sold the jewellery to Emerald Aisle Jewellers for £451.
Using his photo identification, the shop told police Plumridge brought in the ring, later confirmed as Mrs Loxam’s, along with other 9ct gold rings, pendants and watches.
Plumridge, who was later arrested, told the court that at that point he did not know Mrs Loxam had jewellery missing.
He said when he asked the three men who sold him the jewellery if it was stolen they threatened to throw battery acid at his children if their names were given to police, which is why he could not identify them either to officers or the court.
When asked why he didn’t tell a distressed Mrs Loxam about the man’s unaccompanied access to the house when using the toilet, or that he had bought and sold jewellery from them, he told the court he did not think it was relevant.
Accusing him of concocting a ‘cock and bull story’, prosecutor Nigel Harrison said: “The overwhelming inference in this case is that the defendant sold the whole of the quantity of jewellery in a dishonest fashion.
“He sought to conceal his involvement and the version of events he has given to this court is a fabric of lies to disguise he had behaved abominably to someone in which trust had been placed, not that he was in fear.
“He simply will not accept what has become blindingly obvious – that he stole the jewellery.”
Magistrates took 15 minutes to find Plumridge guilty of theft after a two-hour trial.
Chairman of the bench Robert Webb told him: “We found your evidence was not credible. It was inconsistent and your explanation of events was fanciful.
“We feel you did take the items of jewellery and sold them on.”
Plumridge, who was on a suspended prison sentence at the time of the theft, raised his eyebrows and looked to the ceiling as the verdict was read.
He will be sentenced on October 7 at Lancaster magistrates’ court.
The court heard a probation officer would prepare a report considering all sentencing options.