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Jewel theft accused 'roamed mansion in National Trust hat'


The resplendent grounds of Mount Stewart

The resplendent grounds of Mount Stewart

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall get a guided tour during the Royal visit last month

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall get a guided tour during the Royal visit last month

The resplendent grounds of Mount Stewart

A man has been accused of stealing up to £40,000 worth of jewellery from one of Northern Ireland's most popular stately homes while disguised as a National Trust volunteer.

Carlo Holmes (60) appeared in Ards magistrates' court charged with burglary at Mount Stewart on the Ards peninsula on Sunday, May 15.

Two days later, Lady Rose Lauritzen, daughter of the late Lady Mairi Bury, discovered between £35,000 and £40,000 worth of her jewellery had been taken from her bedroom.

Despite the property having been given to the National Trust in the 1970s, members of the Londonderry family continued to live there in private quarters.

The court heard CCTV footage showed a man fitting Holmes' description "wandering" around corridors in a private area of the estate wearing a National Trust hat at around 2pm.

A constable told the court that police objected to bail, adding it was believed Holmes, who has 21 previous burglary convictions, found the key for Lady Rose's bedroom during an exercise that required "a lot of planning".

The court heard that police seized £2,700 in cash at the address of Holmes' wife, and arrested him at Belfast International Airport, where he was set to board a flight bound for Amsterdam.

Police found a further £1,700 on his person.

No jewellery has yet been discovered.

The counsel for the accused told the court Holmes admitted he was in Mount Stewart on the day, but CCTV footage only showed a figure "in corridors".

Holmes' son had come forward to claim the first cash seizure as his own money, counsel added, and the booking to Amsterdam was a return flight.

Counsel said there was no risk of flight, adding Holmes, of Cupar Street, in the Falls area of Belfast, had strong roots in the community.

Noting Holmes had 110 previous criminal convictions, and was on a suspended sentence, District Judge Des Perry told the accused: "Under no circumstances could I find you suitable for bail.

"You are a thoroughly dishonest man."

Judge Perry adjourned the case to June 26.

Mount Stewart is an 18th century house and garden on the east shore of Strangford Lough near Greyabbey.

Famous for its beautiful gardens, it was the Irish seat of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family, Marquesses of Londonderry.

The family played a leading role in British and Irish social and political life.

Prince Charles, who is president of the National Trust, visited Mount Stewart house during his recent trip to Northern Ireland.

The Trust property, which has undergone a dramatic three-year restoration programme, is close to the Prince's heart and he was last there five years ago.

Belfast Telegraph