A man who stole his girlfriend’s mother’s £8,000 jewellery collection before pawning it to a cash-for-gold shop for £451 has been sent to prison for more than five months.
Stephen Plumridge, 32, was told the breach of trust he had committed was ‘extremely serious’ and only a custodial sentence fitted his crime.
The building contractor and father-of-two denied theft but was found guilty after a two-hour trial at a previous hearing at Lancaster Magistrates’ Court.
He stole around 20 pieces of jewellery from Carolyn Loxam’s home on Crag Bank Road, Carnforth, before selling them.
They included items Mrs Loxam said held huge sentimental value as they were bought by her husband Peter, who tragically died unexpectedly in June as the police investigation was beginning.
The court heard that along with his then partner of ten years, Tracey Loxam - the mother of his two and five-year-old sons - Plumridge looked after the property while the Loxams went on holiday.
The couple went abroad on three occasions between November 2012 and May of this year and the court heard there were times when Plumridge was alone at the quiet farmhouse.
At his trial, Plumridge claimed he was visited at the address by three men who had expressed an interest in buying some alloy wheels he had been refurbishing at the property in January.
His said he allowed one of the men to use the toilet unaccompanied and that two weeks later they got in touch again offering him jewellery for sale.
Plumridge said he met the men and bought a number of jewellery items from them ‘in good faith’ without realising who they belonged to.
Plumridge sold the collection – comprising 9ct rings, watches, bracelets, chains and necklaces – to Emerald Aisle Jewellers in Lancaster for £451 in February.
Mrs Loxam later spotted one of her stolen rings, which originally belonged to her mother, in the shop’s window in Sir Simon’s Arcade.
Staff were able to tell police who had sold them the ring and other items and Plumridge was arrested.
He claimed that only in May when Mrs Loxam contacted police about her missing jewellery did he realise pieces had gone missing from the house.
But when asked by the prosecution why he did not tell Mrs Loxam about the men he had bought jewellery off when she became distressed, he said he did not think it was relevant.
He said he approached the men and asked them if what he had bought was taken from Mrs Loxam’s home but was threatened with violence if he revealed their names to the police.
But his defence was described by prosecutor Nigel Harrison as a ‘cock and bull story’ to conceal his involvement and magistrates agreed, labelling his version of events as ‘fanciful’.
A valuation of the jewellery carried out by a Morecambe jewellers for insurance purposes estimated the collection to be worth around £8,000 – more than eight times the amount Plumridge sold it for.
Out of the pieces which were stolen from a collection built up over a lifetime and passed down generations of family, only the ring has been returned to Mrs Loxam.
Plumridge, now of Crossfield Road, Risborough, Buckinghamshire, was sentenced to 23 weeks in prison, including one week added on for committing the theft while on a suspended sentence.
He looked to the ceiling and sighed as he was handcuffed and led from the dock to a waiting prison van.