Son, 38, jailed for stealing his parents' treasured £40,000 jewellery

Son, 38, is jailed for stealing his parents’ treasured £40,000 jewellery from their bedroom safe and selling it while they were on holiday

  • Richard Lea, 38, ‘plundered’ eighteen items after he found a key to parents’ safe
  • He later admitted he had taken the items to a jewellers in Knutsford, Cheshire
  • Lea pleaded guilty to one offence of theft and was jailed for 20 months

Richard Lea, 38, ‘systematically plundered’ eighteen items after he found a key to the safe hidden in his parents bedroom

A man who stole his parents’ treasured £42,000 jewellery collection from their safe while they were on holiday has been jailed. 

Richard Lea, 38, ‘systematically plundered’ eighteen items after he found a key to the safe hidden in his parents bedroom.

He was later confronted by his father before claiming he had taken the collection to a pawn broker in Liverpool.

The father-son duo travelled down together but this was found to be a lie, Minshull Street Crown Court heard.

It was only when Mr Nigel Lea called the police that his son, Richard, admitted he had taken the items to a jewellers in Knutsford, Cheshire.

The family have been left ‘shocked’ and Lea has since been asked to leave the family home.

He pleaded guilty to one offence of theft and was jailed for 20 months.

Prosecuting, Laura Broome said on July 11 last year, Nigel Lea opened up the lock safe to collect a piece of jewellery but found the boxes had been emptied.

‘Eighteen items of jewellery worth £42,000, as well as £700 in cash, were missing from the safe,’ Ms Broome said.

‘He suspected the defendant had stolen the items as he had stolen money from them before.

‘When the defendant returned home from work, Mr Lea confronted him about the missing items.

‘At first he denied it but he then admitted he had stolen them and sold them on.’

Lea told his father that he had accessed the safe numerous times over an 11-month period between August 2019 and July 20 when his parents were out.

He said he had got access to the safe by taking the key from his parents bedroom where it was hidden and then sold the jewellery on to a pawnbrokers in Liverpool.

Lea, who appeared at Minshull Street Crown Court (pictured), pleaded guilty to one offence of theft and was jailed for 20 months

He was unable to provide details of this so Mr Lea, his wife and Lea drove to Liverpool to try and retrieve the items.

It became clear when they arrived that Lea had lied about who he sold the items to, the prosecutor said.

‘On returning home, Nigel Lea called the police and whilst on the phone the defendant told him he had sold all the jewellery to a jewellers in Knutsford,’ she said.

‘He then told him to leave the family home.’

Lea later admitted to receiving four transactions from the jewellers and once the police made contact with the store, they confirmed he had entered several times and sold ‘numerous items of jewellery’.

He told the jewellers that they had come into the possession of the jewellery as a result of the death of his grandma.

The items have since been melted down and none of the jewellery has been recovered, the court heard.

In a victim personal statement, Mr Nigel Lea said: ‘The theft of our entire jewellery collection has left us shocked and we have struggled to come to terms with his behaviour.

‘We have built up this from all over the world over a 20 year period.

‘Every piece has special memories and strong emotional connection, and those memories have now been stolen.’

He added that his wife was looking forward to passing the items on to their granddaughter to mark special occasions.

Lea was said to have a number of previous convictions including one offence of theft and 25 offences of fraud by false representation.

On that occasion in August of last year, Lea had stolen a bank card from his colleagues handbag and used it 22 times, the total value of which came to over £150.

Mitigating, Keith Jones said: ‘He said this is wholly out of character for him.

‘He would wish to repay his family for this. He fully accepts there is a level of trust he has breached.

‘He is now living on the sofa of a friend and has an entirely different life now.’

Sentencing him, Judge Angela Nield said: ‘This is without doubt one of the meanest offences that I have seen come before this court.

‘You are no longer a child.

‘Over a period of some 12 months you systematically plundered your parents safe whilst they were absent from the family home and removed £42,800 worth of your mother’s jewellery.

‘It represents nothing more than greed and desire for a lifestyle beyond your attainable means. There is little explanation for that behaviour.’

Lea was jailed for 20 months.

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