Mount Stewart jewellery raid: 'Burglar ransacked Lady Rose Lauritzen's master bedroom' during public open day
An alleged burglar stole £40,000 worth of jewellery during a public open day at one of Northern Ireland's top stately homes, the High Court heard today.
Prosecutors claimed a visitor ransacked the master bedroom at Mount Stewart House after tricking his way into private areas occupied by Lady Rose Lauritzen.
Carlo Holmes is accused of carrying out the raid within weeks of the National Trust-owned residence reopening following a multi-million pound refurbishment.
The 59-year-old, of Cupar Street in Belfast, was later arrested as he was about to board a flight to Amsterdam.
Holmes is charged with burgling the Co Down site overlooking Strangford Lough on May 17.
He was refused bail due to the risk of re-offending.
Members of the public were said to been free to roam around parts of the house on the day of the break-in, with barriers placed at doors into quarters inhabited by Lady Rose and her husband.
Prosecution counsel Philip Henry claimed CCTV footage showed Holmes gaining access to the out-of-bounds corridors.
"He armed himself with a National Trust hat or baseball cap to give himself the appearance of somebody who worked there," the barrister said.
It was alleged that the intruder used a hidden key to open the master bedroom and go through the drawers of a dresser.
Diamond and gold rings, earrings, necklaces and broaches all encrusted with precious stones were all stolen.
The jewellery, valued at £40,000, has not been recovered, the court heard.
Although Holmes was said to have been identified on the CCTV recordings, Mr Justice Treacy heard the footage does not cover the bedroom door area.
Two days later police went to an address in Belfast linked to the accused and seized £3,700 in cash.
Holmes was not present, but the money is now subject to a separate proceeds of crime court application.
He was eventually arrested on May 31 in the departure lounge at Belfast International Airport. Police found £1,750 in cash on him, according to the prosecution.
During questioning Holmes was said to have admitted going into private areas, but could not account for why he was wearing a National Trust hat.
Barry Gibson, defending, argued that no-entry signs had not been clearly displayed in parts of Mount Stewart House.
"There's no evidence at all that he's seen leaving the corridor and going into the bedroom where the jewellery was allegedly stolen," the barrister said.
With no forensics linking Holmes to the theft, he added: "He says he toured the gardens of the property and spoke to staff at reception before he left. There's no evidence of him rushing out."
Explaining his client's planned trip to Amsterdam, Mr Gibson said it was a return-trip to visit two sisters living in Holland.
But refusing bail, Mr Justice Treacy held that a prima facie case has been established against Holmes.
He said: "I'm quite satisfied if this applicant was released on bail he would pose a grave risk of committing further offences."