CAUGHT OUT: Thief who stole dying pensioner’s antiques to fund Australia holiday

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Family turned detectives to get their heirlooms back.

Christopher Turner, a promising cricketer from Sheffield, stole antiques from 85-year-old Peter Thurlow of Braithwell, Doncaster, and then put them up for auction on eBay on the day of his funeral.

Mr Thurlow’s family, of Rotherham, managed to track down the stolen property and bought some of it back themselves, including a valuable Prussian beer stein from the Napoleonic era which Turner hoped would help pay for his planned trip to Australia last winter.

Turner, aged 21, who plays for the Parkhead cricket team which raises money for St Luke’s Hospice in Sheffield, was employed by Sheffield firm Goldsborough Home Care as an overnight carer for sick and disabled people in their own homes, Doncaster Magistrates’ Court was told.

He also targeted a severely disabled man from Sheffield, Robert Bruce, when he was sent to care for him at night - taking three valuable antique Clarice Cliff art deco vases from his late wife’s collection.

Turner, of Blair Athol Road, Greystones, Sheffield, pleaded guilty to two theft charges and was given a community sentence because of his previous good character.

He was placed under supervision for 12 months, must complete 190 hours of unpaid work, attend a victim awareness programme and pay £85 prosecution costs.

District Judge Jonathan Bennett told Turner: “You are a young man of some intelligence and achievement but you betrayed the trust of these old gentlemen when you knew they were vulnerable and you took advantage of them.”

Prosecutor Joanne Lewis-Crooks said the beer stein was found to have gone missing just after Mr Thurlow died from pneumonia and emphysema at his home in March.

His grandson found the stein, worth around £1,000, for sale on eBay and bid £281 to get it back.

At about the same time a cleaner working for Mr Bruce spotted the vases had disappeared and they were also found on eBay, being sold for less than £65 each.

Turner’s solicitor, Geoff Flemming, said Turner had previously worked as a cricket coach in New Zealand and had the job with Goldsborough for about eight months.

He added: “What happened here was an aberration and he won’t trouble the courts again.”

A spokesman for Goldsborough Home Care of Hawke Street, Attercliffe, said after the hearing: “We empathise and apologise for the distress that this incident has caused the people and families involved and we have been supporting them through this difficult time.

“All our staff have to pass a Criminal Records Bureau checks before starting work, however, despite a clean enhanced CRB report Christopher Turner betrayed the trust of the people for whom he cared.

“We worked closely with South Yorkshire Police and Social Services to investigate this matter as a matter of urgency. Mr Turner was dismissed from Goldsborough for gross misconduct and has been referred to the Independent Safeguarding Authority in line with Safeguarding best practice procedures.”

After the case, one of Mr Thurlow’s three sons, Nigel, who lives in Ravenfield, Rotherham, said: “As long as he never works with vulnerable people again we are happy with the outcome of the case.”

How we got our heirlooms back: P2