A west Belfast man has marked his 61st birthday by being remanded into custody for the “audacious” and “thoroughly dishonest” theft of tens of thousands of pounds worth of jewellery from Mount Stewart.
Carlo Holmes spent his birthday at Downpatrick Crown Court, where CCTV footage was shown of him walking around private areas of the stately home both before and after stealing the jewellery from the bedroom of Lady Rose Lauritzen.
Holmes targetted the private dwelling area of Lady Lauritzen, who is in her 70s and who has spent most of her life at Mount Stewart, on May 17 last year. The items - which included rings, earrings and a brooch - were stolen from a jewellery roll.
Prosecutor Sam Magee said the monetary value of the jewellery taken amounted to around £35,000, adding nothing that was stolen that day has ever been recovered or traced.
Despite his initial denials, Holmes, from Cupar Street in Belfast, admitted a single charge of burglary at the National Trust property.
Holmes targeted the private dwelling area of the 19th century property on the banks of Strangford Lough on the afternoon of Sunday May 17 last year. The historic house, near Greyabbey, had recently re-opened to the public following renovation work.
Mr Magee said that rather that simply visit Mount Stewart on the afternoon in question, Holmes “embarked on an audacious, carefully planned and thoroughly dishonest venture to burgle the private residence of Lady Lauritzen”
After entering the premises via the reception area, Holmes - dressed in a heavy poacher’s-style coat - was captured on CCTV in various areas of the house, including an education centre.
He is then captured on the footage walking along a private corridor that leads to Lady Lauritzen’s bedroom. Six minutes later, he is seen walking back along the same corridor and eventually coming back to the main reception.
Mr Magee said that the CCTV shows Holmes both trying to “blend in” in the visitors cenre prior to the theft, and also shows him walking away from the bedroom with the pockets of his coat “bulging” with the items he has just stolen.
The prosecutor revealed that Lady Lauritzen kept her jewellery in a jewellery roll. On the morning of the theft, she had locked her bedroom and placed the key on the windowsill of an opposite bathroom, as was her custom.
Telling the court it was clear that Holmes was aware of the location of the key, Mr Magee said it indicated that Holmes was working with another person
The prosecutor added that the incident was a “brazen, highly professionally planned burglary of a stately home” during which the privacy of a woman in her 70s was invaded.
Holmes was arrested at Belfast International Airport on May 31, and when he was detained he had £1,685 in cash on him. When his home was searched, a further £3,700 was located.
When he was interviewed, Holmes admitted he had visited Mount Stewart but denied stealing the jewellery.
It also emerged during yesterday’s hearing that Holmes has 112 previous convictions and worked to a modus operandi whereby he wore a big coat to steal items. In the past, Holmes has targetted the Culloden Hotel in Cultra and the Enniskillings Museum in Co Fermanagh.
The plea and sentencing of Holmes was adjourned until next week, with Judge Stephen Fowler remanding the defendant into custody.