The organiser of a string of burglaries that targeted various auction houses claimed a Klotz violin taken from a saleroom and then discovered at his home had actually been found in a skip.
It was in fact from a theft at Stroud
Auctions in Gloucestershire on October 11-12, 2011, but Darryl
Aldridge, 48, of New Barn Road, Shoreham, West Sussex, had argued
that it had been taken from the skip by Anthony Fortune, who had
sold it to him - thus creating an invoice.
The violin was found at Aldridge's home
address on October 13, less than 36 hours after the burglary.
During his trial in February, Aldridge
admitted the violin was from Stroud Auctions and that invoices
created by Fortune for the violin and other unrelated items were
fictitious. As Aldridge was convicted for perverting the course of
justice for this offence, the courts separated Fortune's
prosecution and postponed it to ensure a fair trial.
Fortune, 55, of Park Road, Worthing, had
been charged with perverting the course of justice in relation to
creating fictitious invoices for Aldridge. He appeared at Hove
Crown Court on September 2, where he admitted to making a false
instrument by means of fraud. He admitted that he had created the
invoices for Aldridge and specifically for the violin and that he
had not found the violin or sold it to Aldridge as he had
Fortune said that he suspected that it had
been stolen by Aldridge and that he had created the invoices to
help Aldridge move the property on. Fortune was sentenced to six
months' imprisonment suspended for 18 months.
Aldridge was convicted in March. He had
orchestrated a number of burglaries at various auction houses and
private homes, targeting upcoming sales. He researched and selected
high-value items which he wanted to steal using auction room
websites. He would then send out his criminal associates armed with
the information to commit the burglaries at the salerooms in
Sussex, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Kent.
In addition, while on police bail for the
eight auction house burglaries, Aldridge himself committed three
high-value burglaries in private homes in Lancing and Brighton.
Following that six-week trial earlier in the
year Aldridge was found guilty on all charges: three burglaries of
homes, eight auction house burglaries and perverting the course of
justice. He was sentenced to seven years concurrent for the auction
house burglaries, three years consecutive for the three dwelling
burglaries and eight months consecutive for perverting the course
of justice - the total sentence was ten years nine months.
Aldridge's co-defendant, Anthony Townsend,
50, of Upper Lewes Road, Brighton, was found guilty of the burglary
organised by Aldridge at Stroud Auctions in October 2011. He
received a sentence of 18 months.
Townsend had also burgled a house in
Brighton on December 26, 2012, while he was on court bail for the
Stroud offence. He pleaded guilty to this and received a three-year
consecutive sentence, leading to a total sentence of
A third defendant, Kelly Lambert, 40, of
Lavender Hill, Shoreham, pleaded guilty to an offence of theft at
Toovey's Auctions, Washington, West Sussex, which again was
orchestrated by Aldridge. She was sentenced to community
The charges followed an 18-month investigation by the Sussex
Police Serious Organised Crime Unit.