Father and son from Skegness 'stole' £1.5m of Chinese antiques from widow, 96, court hears

An elderly gardener earned £60,000 in just six months after selling items of jade given to him by his neighbour in the Bedfordshire village where they lived, a court has been told.

Gary Pickersgill and his father, Des.
Gary Pickersgill and his father, Des.

Des Pickersgill received the money from Bonhams Auction House in London where the Chinese jade antiques were sold.

They included vases and carving of a lion.

The pieces are said to have been part of a haul of jade and ivory antiques Mr Pickersgill allegedly stole from the wealthy widow, together with his son, Gary Pickersgill.

Chinese jade antiques in the display cabinet.

Des Pickersgill, 83 from Bedford has told the jury all the items were given to him and his son by the widow as gifts and for the jobs and errands they carried out for her.

He was giving evidence for the second day running at Luton Crown Court where he is on trial accused that together with his 42 year old Gary Pickersgill, they stole in excess of £1.5 million pounds worth expensive items of jade and ivory which were removed from an unlocked cabinet in woman’s home.

The prosecution allege that the items were taken between November 2011 and May of 2018 from the widow’s home near Bedford.

It’s alleged the father and son opened accounts with Bonhams Auction House in London to then sell the items they had taken, by making out they had the authority to do so

Apple Green Jadeite Bowl.

Also in the dock with them is Gary Pickersgill’s wife, Sarah and his friends, Kevin Wigmore and his wife Tracy Wigmore.

One item sold by Garry Pickersgill, said prosecutor Ian Hope, was an apple green jade bowl which he said “went for a cool million pounds.”

The jury was told a pale green jade teapot sold for around five million Hong Kong dollars in 2015, which the court heard was worth more than half a million pounds.

It was an unrelated break in at the widow’s home In September 2017 that led to the arrest of the five defendants.

Kevin Wigmore

Items of jade were removed from a display cabinet in the burglary, and as a result, the widow’s insurance company appointed a fine arts and antiques expert to carry out an investigation.

Mary Griffith-Thompson decided to look at what jade and Ivory pieces had sold for at Bonhams and to see for herself what the replacement insurance values would be of items taken in the burglary.

Studying the Bonhams archive she told the court she then came across a teapot thought to have been stolen in the burglary, but which had in fact been sold two years earlier in 2015 for more than half a million pounds.

She said she made similar findings regarding other items thought to have gone in the burglary, but which had been sold earlier by Bonhams.

Sarah Pickersgill

The jury has been told Bedfordshire Police contacted the auction house who were able to confirm that the father and son had opened accounts

with them to sell items.

The prosecution allege that Kevin Wigmore also opened an account with Bonhams in 2018 to sell items on behalf of his friend Gary Pickersgill.

In May of that year it’s claimed the sale of three of jade pieces went for around £63,000

At Luton crown court Des Pickersgill, 83 now of Clyde Crescent, Bedford, and Gary Pickersgill, 42, of Saxby Avenue, Skegness, plead not guilty to the theft of jade and ivory artefacts from the home of the old lady between November 2011 and May of 2018.

The pair, along with Kevin Wigmore, 47, of Sapphire Close, Orby near Skegness, plead not guilty to fraud after it's alleged they made representations to Bonhams Auction House between November 2011 and May 2019 that they had authority to sell the jade and ivory items on behalf of the woman

Des Pickersgill, Gary Pickersgill and Sarah Pickersgill, 40, also from Saxby Avenue, Skegness, plead not guilty to converting criminal property by selling the items to the auction house.

Gary Pickersgill, Kevin Wigmore and Tracey Wigmore plead not guilty to converting criminal property by selling jade and ivory antiques to Bonhams.

In the witness box Mr Pickersgill snr agreed that his first sale with Bonhams was in November 2011.

Prosecutor Mr Hope said that on his own admission he had taken something like 25 to 30 pieces to Bonhams in the years that followed.

He replied: “She gave me lots of presents...I did lots of jobs for her.”

Mr Hope: “You got £60,000 in just six months. Surely this is a huge amount of money for you?”

Mr Pickersgill answered: “She was a very generous.”

Mr Hope: “It was an awful lot more than you would have got as a gardener.”

“Yes,” he replied.

He was then asked about a jade bowl his son Gary had sold at Bonhams in November 2013 which went for a million pounds.

Mr Hope: “It’s a life changing amount of money.”

Mr Pickersgill replied: “We never thought it would go for anything like that. It was just a little green bowl.”

“It made Gary a millionaire,” said the prosecutor

“Yes,” said the pensioner.

He said his son’s wife, Sarah Pickersgill had known about the sale of the bowl.

Asked if he had told the widow that her little green bowl had made his son a millionaire, Mr Pickersgill said: “I can’t remember.”

He said that neither he or his son had attended that auction on the day and had listened to it over the phone while Gar’s wife had been at work.

Asked to look at copies of his bank statements, he agreed that when money came into his account from Bonhams for items he had sold, sums went out to members of his family.

He told the court: “It’s what a father does.”