A Notorious Brighton Antiques Dealer
is accused of three thefts.
Art Hostage Comments:
Mr Collins is accused of taking Silver candelabra and a diamond engagement ring from one home, and jewellery from another, in Stanmore in June. He is also accused of taking a George Braque print from a home in The Grove, Highgate, between March and April.
Lee "Groundhog Day" Collins History
Bogus antiques dealer conned elderly woman
A dodgy antiques dealer talked his way into an elderly woman's home and stole her treasured jewellery.
Josephine Cutcliffe had a necklace and earrings set swiped by smooth-talking Lee Collins.
The jewellery had been handed down through the family from Mrs Cutcliffe's grandmother and she intended to pass it on to her grandchildren.
Collins is now facing a prison sentence after a jury at Portsmouth Crown Court found him guilty of theft.
Collins had called at the 88-year-old's home in Havelock Road, Warsash, unannounced, asking if she had any old books to give away.
Thinking he was from the local bookshop she invited him.
Once inside he asked if she had any old jewellery. Mrs Cutcliffe, who was in the army during the war, agreed to let him have some broken bits and pieces.
But when her back was turned Collins helped himself to the jewellery she had refused to sell.
She has never got them back. Mrs Cutcliffe said: 'I loved those things and I would never have sold them.
Now they're gone.
'He was a very ordinary, respectable looking man but I can't believe how stupid I was, I feel a fool. 'The police said he was a low-life and I can think of some other words for him.'
Collins had advertised himself as Westdene Galleries, based in Sussex, and hired a company to provide him with a London telephone number. In truth his outfit was a one-man band run from his home in Brighton, and he had previous convictions for theft and burglary.
In 2008 he stole a barometer from 79-year-old Jennifer Fennel after visiting her home, claiming to be an antiques dealer called Mr Roberts. He was on bail for that offence when he stole from Mrs Cutcliffe in February last year. Collins, 43, of Dyke Road Avenue, Brighton, had denied stealing the necklace and earrings, claiming the pensioner had sold them to him.
He said he had been an antiques dealer for 20 years and claimed Mrs Cutcliffe was confused. 'I may be elderly but I'm not confused,' she said. 'Having to go to court was hard. 'I felt like I was on trial and I couldn't believe what an ordeal it was but now I feel it was worthwhile.'
Releasing Collins on bail to be sentenced on April 30 Judge Peter Henry said: 'I make it clear that I want the probation service to look at all options and it may well be that there will be a custodial sentence as a result of this conviction.'
Lee Colins was jailed for Ten Months on April 30th 2010
HISTORY OF OFFENDING
Judge Peter Henry took the step of allowing the jury to hear about one of Lee Collins' previous convictions. They were told how he had stolen from Jennifer Fennel, 79, after claiming to be an antiques dealer called Mr Roberts.
But the jury did not find out until after the trial that Collins had also been convicted of four burglaries and two charges of making off without payment.
After the verdict PC Salena Bishop, from the Fareham and Gosport priority crime team, said: 'This victim was a vulnerable elderly lady. She found giving evidence quite an ordeal and hopefully this will make it all worthwhile.'