A debt-ridden cleaner who stole three expensive watches from homes in Croxley Green and Rickmansworth was given a suspended sentence today (Friday, September 13).
Thomas Bell, 29, from Denham, took the watches to a pawn broker in Uxbridge where he got over £10,000 for them.
Prosecutor Charles Judge told St Albans Crown Court that Bell stole a Breitling watch, worth £5,000, from the bedroom of a home where he was working in Croxley Green. He pawned it for £1,200.
He was cleaning in another house in Croxley Green where he took a £2,500 Tag Heuer watch. This was pawned for £750.
His most expensive theft was a £30,000 Patek Philippe, which was taken from the bedroom of a house in Rickmansworth.
Bell’s boss texted him after the watches were reported missing and he texted back admitting the thefts.
Feeling guilty, Bell went back to the pawn brokers and redeemed the Tag Heuer watch for £818. It was given back to the owner.
He handed himself into the police telling the officers he took the money to settle his debts.
He said his intention was to redeem the other two watches and return them to their owners.
Bell, of Smallholding, Oxford Road, Denham appeared for sentence having admitted three thefts committed in May and June this year.
Defending, Timothy Sleigh-Johnson said Bell had lost a £60,000-a-year job in January when the freight company he was working for went into administration.
He said: “He was supporting four children and a partner who was pregnant. He used loans and credit cards and got into significant amounts of debt. The cleaning work was only pay £150 a week. He was in a dire financial situation.”
Mr Sleigh-Johnson said Bell, who now earns £30,000 a year in a new job, could have sold the watches, but had intended to take them back to their owners.
“He said guilt was eating him up. He describes his actions as stupid and idiotic and said he could not see another way out,” he said.
The other two watches have been returned.
Judge Michael Simon told him: “You clearly know your watches. They were all of high value.
“You took a low paid job and made the worst decision of your life. You were trusted by the company you were working for.”
The judge said he was taking into account his remorse and personal circumstances by suspending a 10-month jail sentence for 18 months.
He must carry out 15 days rehabilitation activity, carry out 180 hours of unpaid work and pay £500 prosecution costs.