Housekeeper jailed for stealing antiques and artwork from employer
Former show jumper Kim Roberts sentenced to three years after admitting to theft of items including a Picasso sketch from homes of wealthy countess
Thursday 7 May 2015 14.16 BST / http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/may/07/housekeeper-jailed-stealing-antiques-art-kim-roberts-countess-bathurst-picasso
A former show jumper who stole antiques and art including a Picasso sketch and Ben Nicholson painting from a wealthy countess while working as her housekeeper has been jailed for three years.
Kim Roberts, 59, was told by a judge that her offences against Lady Bathurst were “greedy and calculated”.
Roberts admitted stealing from Bathurst’s homes in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, and south-west London. She also admitted taking a Volvo car from another former employer, the interior designer Emily Olympitis.
In addition she pleaded guilty to giving false details to employment agency Holland Park Staffing, which supplies butlers and nannies, so that previous convictions for dishonesty would not be discovered.
Her barrister, Simon Roberts, pleaded for leniency at Gloucester crown court saying she had had a “disastrous life” and was terrified of going to prison because she looked after her disabled son.
He pointed out that the artwork had not even been missed until she came to sell it. But Judge William Hart said the law was there to protect everyone, “whether prince or pauper”.
Ian Dixey, prosecuting, said Kim Roberts worked for a little under a month as a housekeeper for Bathurst in the spring of 2013.
Soon after she left, Roberts had a Nicholson painting valued. She was told it was worth £200,000, but dealers she spoke to were suspicious about where she had got it from. A gallery owner recognised it as belonging to Bathurst and contacted her.
Bathurst did not realise it was missing as it had been kept in a study, covered up. It was only then that she realised other property, including the Picasso sketch, were missing.
Police were called in and Roberts was arrested when she arrived at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair, London, where she had arranged to meet a gallery owner hoping to sell the Nicholson painting.
Dixey said: “As Ms Roberts arrived at the club she was arrested. She was searched and items found in her handbag included a set of keys, which were to Lady Bathurst’s London flat.
“Her [Roberts’] home in Colyton [in Devon] was then searched and officers could immediately see there were a large number of items of value in the property. There were more than 50 items, mainly antique silver and things of that sort.
“When the defendant was interviewed she said that the Ben Nicholson painting and the Picasso sketch had in effect been given to her and that she was entitled to sell them.”
Roberts claimed that other items in her possession – such as a box with Bathurst’s name written on it – had been dumped. Items found had been taken from both Bathurst’s Gloucestershire and London homes.
Later police found that the car was driving had false number plates. It had been stolen from Olympitis in 2012.
Dixey said Roberts’ fraud against Holland Park Staffing involved changing the 6 in her date of birth 1956 on her driving licence to 8. This was clearly because she had a criminal record that she did not want to be discovered, he said.
The prosecutor said Roberts had been convicted of offences including deception, shoplifting and forgery in the late 1980s and 90s.
He told the court it was impossible to put a valuation on what she had stolen. “But it was in breach of trust and there were clearly items of sentimental value as well as high material value,” he said. “She worked for very wealthy people who perhaps did not miss things in the way that others might have done.”
Simon Burns, for Roberts, said she was “extremely contrite” but argued that it had not been ”elaborate or complicated” offending.
He told the court the paintings stolen would “not immediately have been missed” because they were “not on the walls being appreciated”.
The Picasso sketch, he said, was a “very simple’” one and not worth more than £100,000. The Nicholson still life from 1945 was worth between £80,000 and £120,000, he said.
Roberts’ motivation was that she had “fallen from her very comfortable position that she once enjoyed a long time ago”, Burns continued.
“She had been married comfortably and was looked after. But that marriage broke down. She has suffered from depression since 1987. The partners and relationships she has had have all failed. She has had what is quoted in the medical paperwork as a disastrous life.
“She suffered a severe road traffic accident which resulted in her contracting a brain tumour in 2001. The only thing she could do was domestic work. She became a housekeeper. It was not a career of choice.
“She was a single mum with a son who required constant care. He is 29 and she cares for him. He functions at the level of a 15-year-old and is on constant medication. She is extremely anxious about him and who is going to look after him if she is in prison. She had fallen on hard times and resorted to stealing to save herself from financial destitution.
“A lot of people speak highly of her. She has looked after a number of families. She was a horsewoman who competed as a show jumper at Hickstead. All that has been lost.”
Sentencing Roberts, the judge said “These were premeditated offences by you as an employee with the clearest intention of selling the items on. There is a greedy and calculated nature to your offending. What you did in effect was to repay your employer’s trust with avarice and dishonesty.
“Lady Bathurst is a wealthy woman from a wealthy family and you no doubt thought she could easily bear the loss, even if she did discover it. The fact she is wealthy is not a mitigating factor. The criminal justice system should protect all, whether prince or pauper.”
He praised the “integrity and professionalism” of the art dealers involved in the case and said it was thanks to their honesty that all the stolen property Roberts tried to sell was recovered.
The 9th Earl and Countess Bathurst, with Lord Apsley and Lady Rosie Bathurst (middle)
Allen Christopher Bertram Bathurst, 9th Earl Bathurst (born 11 March 1961), known as Lord Apsley till 2011, is a British peer and conservationist.
Born on 11 March 1961 as the eldest son of Henry Bathurst, 8th Earl Bathurst and Judith Mary Nelson, he lives with his wife Sara at Cirencester Park, the Bathurst family seat. With the death of his father on 16 October 2011, he became the 9th Earl Bathurst, of Bathurst in the County of Sussex (Great Britain, let. pat. 27 Aug 1772), 9th Baron Bathurst, of Battlesden in the County of Bedford (Great Britain, let. pat. 1 Jan 1712), and the 8th Baron Apsley, of Apsley in the County of Sussex (Great Britain, let. pat. 24 Jan 1771).
Bathurst married first Hilary George, 2nd daughter of John F. George on 31 May 1986. They divorced in 1994. With her he has two children, a son and a daughter:
Benjamin George Henry Bathurst, Lord Apsley (born 6 March 1990)
Lady Rosie Meriel Lilias Bathurst (born 1992)
On 5 June 1996, he married secondly Sara Chapman, currently named The Countess Bathurst, daughter of Christopher and Marguerite Chapman of Ilminster, Somerset.
Bathurst runs the Bathurst Estate, covering some 15,500 acres of countryside. It includes much of the village of Sapperton and Coates, including Pinbury Park, and lays claim to the principal source of the River Thames. Within the estate is the famous Ivy Lodge polo ground, Cirencester Park Polo Club being founded in 1894, making it the oldest playing ground in the United Kingdom. He also runs Cirencester Park Farms which farms 4,500 acres of arable crops, partially organic, and a herd of Gloucester Cattle.
As a conservationist, he has campaigned to preserve the rural countryside and various historic buildings. Most notably The Earl and Countess, as Lord and Lady Apsley, made headline news when they tried to save an historic building in The Cattle Market in Cirencester, built by the 6th Earl Bathurst for the Mansion's old Kitchen Garden. When they discovered it was to be demolished by the County Council to make way for a Leisure Centre, they threatened to chain themselves to the building to prevent the demolition going ahead. The problem was eventually solved when Bathurst negotiated with the demolition company to buy back the building and it was removed, brick by brick to the family estate.
Bathurst is a President of Cirencester Housing and Marshall of the St Lawrence Hospital Trust. He is also the founding Director of the annual Cotswold Show, held every July on the Bathurst Estate and a Patron of the Cotswolds Museum Trust. He is President of The Cirencester Hospital League of Friends, President of Cirencester Band, President of The Cirencester Male Voice Choir, Steward of The Cirencester Society in London, Patron of The Cirencester Cricket Club, and President of Cirencester Park Polo Club.
Bathurst is involved in the National Farmers Union. He is President of the Gloucestershire Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), a governor of the Royal Agricultural University, past President of the Three Counties Agricultural Society and Director of the Gloucestershire Farming Trust.
Cirencester Park is a country house in the parish of Cirencester in Gloucestershire, England, and is the seat of the Bathurst family, Earls Bathurst. It is a Grade II* listed building.
Allen Bathurst, the first Earl Bathurst (1684–1775), inherited the estate on the death of his father, Sir Benjamin Bathurst, in 1704. He was a Tory Member of Parliament and statesman who from 1714 devoted himself to rebuilding the house formerly known as Oakley Grove, which probably stands on the site of Cirencester Castle, and laying out the famous parkland.
In 1716 Bathurst acquired the extensive estate of Sapperton from the Atkyns family, including Oakley Wood, and went on to plant one of the finest landscape gardens in England, complete with park buildings, walks, seats, grottoes and ruins. They include Alfred’s Hall, now taken to be the earliest recorded Gothick garden building in England, which is also a grade II* listed building.
Allen Bathurst was raised to the peerage as a baron in 1711 and an earl in 1772, and was a patron of art and literature no less than a statesman. The poet Alexander Pope was a frequent visitor to Cirencester House; he advised on the lay-out of the gardens and designed the building known as Pope's Seat in the park, which commands a splendid view of woods and avenues. Jonathan Swift was another appreciative visitor.
The house contains portraits by Lawrence, Gainsborough, Romney, Lely, Reynolds, Hoppner, Kneller and many others, and a set of giant marble columns carrying busts, which are genuine antiques, collected in Italy by Lord Apsley, the son of the third earl, at the time of the Congress of Vienna in 1814.
There were additions to the house by Sir Robert Smirke about 1830.
Subsequent earls were patrons of the Arts and Crafts movement, when Ernest Gimson and the Barnsley brothers, Sidney and Ernest, settled at Pinbury Park on the Cirencester estate in 1894. Norman Jewson joined them in 1907, and describes his life as a student of Gimson in Sapperton in his classic memoir, By Chance I did Rove (1952).
The estate includes much of the villages of Sapperton and Coates, including Pinbury Park, and lays claim to containing the principal source of the River Thames.
Apsley House, at Hyde Park in London, was built for Lord Apsley, later the third earl Bathurst, Lord Chancellor, by the architect, Robert Adam. In 1807 the house was purchased by Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, who in 1817 sold it to his famous brother, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (who presented his portrait, today still in Cirencester House).
The house has the tallest yew hedge in Britain. The semi-circular hedge, which is 33 feet wide and 150 yards long, is believed to have been planted in about 1710. The tonne of clippings produced by its annual trimming are sold to pharmaceutical companies who use extracts as a key ingredient of Docetaxel, a chemotherapy drug used to treat breast, ovarian and lung cancer.
7th Earl Bathurst
The 8th Earl Bathurst
The 8th Earl Bathurst, who died on October 16 aged 84, was a junior Conservative minister at the Home Office and Lord-in-Waiting to the Queen, but his public offices never matched his private antics for originality and spice.
"Barmy" Bathurst, as he was known, inherited the earldom and Cirencester Park in Gloucestershire from his grandfather, the 7th Earl, in 1943, the year after his father, Lord Apsley, DSO, MC, MP, had been killed, and was a keen countryman who rode hard to hounds, as well as a just and jovial landlord.
He followed in the footsteps of the 1st Earl, – a former Tory MP for Cirencester and friend of Pope, Swift and Congreve who afforested 3,000 acres of the estate in 1720 – by becoming a keen forester himself and President of the Royal Forestry Society as well as Councillor for the Timber Growers' Association.
An apiarist and an able farmer, Bathurst was also the owner of "Jim" and "Joe", the last working oxen in this country. He ran Cirencester Park Polo Club and was active in local affairs – it was his job, among others, to hand out the Bledisloe Trophies to well-kept Cotswold villages. He was also a governor at the Royal Agricultural College for many years.
Henry Allen John Bathurst was born on May 1 1927 the eldest son of Allen Bathurst, Lord Apsley, and his wife Violet. He was educated at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford. In 1948 he joined the military and served as a lieutenant in the 10th Royal Hussars and as a captain in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars (TA).
In 1957 Bathurst became honorary secretary of the Agricultural Committee in the House of Lords and a Lord-in-Waiting to the Queen. He was Chancellor of the Primrose League from 1959 to 1961 as well, and, during this time, at was President of the Gloucestershire Branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England.
His political career was short-lived, however, and reached its peak when he was appointed Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office in 1961, only to be discharged the following year by Harold Macmillan in the "night of the long knives".
Thereafter, Bathurst retired to the family seat, though his work for the Tory Party continued under other guises: in 1968, to raise funds for the Party, he sold a 2nd Century Samian cup that had been found among Roman ruins on the estate in 1891.
Bathurst's duties at Cirencester Park included riding as Master of the Valley of The White Horse Hounds, the Gloucestershire pack kept by his family since the 1830s. He cut a dashing figure on a horse, and became the first English peer to ride a Russian horse to hounds, so keen was he to introduce Russian-bred horses to the local hunting fraternity.
In 1965, however, in order reduce costs for both hunts, he merged his own twenty couple with the local Vale of The White Horse pack. But he diversified into other equestrian pursuits, founding Cirencester Park Polo Club – venue of the famous chukka which saw the Prince of Wales come a cropper mid-swing and break his arm.
Scandal struck in the Eighties when, twice, (in 1982 and 1988), plantations of cannabis and opium poppies were found to be growing within the Park walls, tended by local opportunists who were later jailed. Bathurst weathered the ensuing press attention with the same grace as he employed in 1989, when he lost his driving licence for 15 months after a four-hour lunchtime "jolly" with friends.
In 1988 Bathurst had moved to a farmhouse on the estate to make way for Lord Apsley, his son and heir, yet he remained involved in the running of things. In 2003, driving through the Park on his way home from a polo match, his Landrover was overtaken on the grass verge by a Volkswagen Golf travelling at 40 to 50mph. Roused to heights of fury by this flagrant breach of the estate's 20mph speed limit, the 76-year-old Earl gave chase, flashing his lights, sounding his horn and engaging in off-road manoeuvres to try and get the offender to stop. But it was the Earl himself who was forced to stop – by the security team protecting Prince William, the car's driver.
Although Clarence House issued an apology, the Earl remained unrepentant: "There are rules in the polo club about driving on the estate, and people have to stick to them", he told an interviewer. "I don't care who it is, royalty or not – speeding is not allowed on my estate. If I was to drive like that in Windsor Park, I'd end up in the Tower." He did not recognise the Prince, he explained, observing that he "thought he was some young yob in a beat-up car".
Bathurst was Chairman of the Gloucestershire branch of the Country Landowners' Association from 1968 to 1971 and a Deputy Lieutenant for Gloucestershire from 1960 to 1986.
He married first, in 1959, Judith Nelson; they had two sons and one daughter. The marriage was dissolved in 1977 and the following year he married, secondly, Gloria, widow of David Rutherston.
His son Allen Christopher Bertram Bathurst, Lord Apsley, born in 1961, succeeds to the Earldom.
The 8th Earl Bathurst, born May 1 1927, died October 16 2011