A FAMILY of fraudsters have been jailed after conning a frail pensioner out of her £1.7million antique collection.
Father and son Des and Gary Pickersgill masterminded the operation and sold dozens of the elderly woman’s jade and ivory ornaments over a seven year period.
Des, 83, lived less than 100 yards from his victim, who is aged in her 90s, in Bedford.
His son Gary, 42, listed the stolen items with a prestigious auctioneer, and transferred the illicit gains to his wife Sarah, 40.
His pal Kevin Wigmore, 47, and his wife Tracey, 49, also assisted the father and son duo in the sale of the stolen items.
Luton Crown Court heard that Des Pickersgill encouraged the woman to drink so the thefts would not be noticed, while looking after her garden and carrying out odd jobs after she had a stroke.
She had built up a collection of valuable paintings and antiques which the Pickersgill's stole almost 50 items over seven years.
Part of her collection included a very rare pale green Jade teapot, which was sold for around £527,000 and was the only item of its kind to be sold in the last 20 years.
The three men were today jailed for a total of 16 years for each of their parts in the targeted thefts.
EXCEEDINGLY RARE TEAPOT
Police launched an investigation in September 2017 after a burglary at the victims address.
An antiques expert told cops that three of the items they suspected were stolen had been sold at Bonhams of London Auctioneers in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The court heard that officers identified the rare teapot stolen from the victim due to a natural discolouration.
Bonhams also sold an extremely rare cup and cover from the woman’s collection for £127k and a jade bird box for £7k.
The auctioneer told cops that two accounts had sold more than 40 items of antique jade, ivory and bronze from November 2011 to May 2017.
One account belonged to Des Pickersgill while the second belonged to his son Gary, with £1.56million of the payments being paid into the latter’s account.
He then transferred the money to his wife Sarah who was charged with converting criminal property.
She blames herself for this situation, not noticing what was going on in front of her own eyes.
Luton Crown Court heard that ornaments and pendants belonging to the victim were recovered from addresses in Bedfordshire and Skegness.
Officers discovered messages between Gary and Kevin Wigmore discussing the sales, along with his wife Tracey.
Kevin sold three items from the victim’s collection for more than £60,000, and was charged with fraud and converting criminal property.
A spokesman from Bedfordshire Police said: "Des Pickersgill, aged 83 years, did casual work for the victim, who is now in her 90s, at her home in a village just outside Bedford.
"His son Gary Pickersgill, aged 42 years, and friend Kevin Wigmore, aged 47 years, played a leading role in listing the stolen items at a prestigious auctioneer. The three men were today jailed for a combined 16 years."
The defendants told a jury at Luton Crown Court that Gary was gifted a large box of valuable items by the elderly victim before 2011.
Gary and Kevin also attempted to claim that there was a loan between the pair which explained why Wigmore had the artefacts and had sold further item.
'DRIVEN BY GREED'
But Judge Steven Evans said he “wholly” rejected their claim, and described them as being “driven by greed".
Reading a statement in court, the elderly victim’s grandson said: “The day I told her the outcome of the case, she shed a tear, she told me that she felt betrayed more than any time in her life.
“She had believed that the Pickersgills had been her friends and cared about her. She still cannot believe what has happened and her outlook on life has been blackened.
“She blames herself for this situation, not noticing what was going on in front of her own eyes. I have reassured her that none of this is her fault, none of us see bad in people we trust."
Des Pickersgill, was sentenced to six years for theft, fraud and converting criminal property, his son Gary was handed eight years for fraud, theft and two counts of converting criminal property.
Sarah Pickersgill was given a two year community order and 200 hours of unpaid work for converting criminal property.
Kevin Wigmore was handed a two years sentence for fraud and converting criminal property.
His wife Tracey was sentenced to nine months in prison, which was suspended for a year as well as a community order with 200 hours of unpaid work for fraud and converting criminal property.
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