A convicted thief has gone on trial accused of stealing £5,000 worth of jewellery belonging to an elderly woman.
Daniel Brown, 25, from Willowfield Gardens in east Belfast, denies a single charge of theft of seven rings, a pair of gold earrings and a gold watch belonging to Eileen Charnock.
Prosecution lawyer Mark Farrell told the jury at Belfast Crown Court that 70-year-old Mrs Charnock met Brown at a car boot sale at St Donard’s Parish Church in Bloomfield, east Belfast on May 30, 2015, where he ran a stall selling second-hand clothing.
She told him she had a large quantity of second-hand clothes and he agreed to buy them from her. After exchanging telephone numbers, Brown agreed to call with her at her bungalow home in east Belfast.
The court heard Brown eventually turned up at her home three days later on June 2 around 2pm and told Mrs Charnock that he had to go and get “bigger bags’’ to put all the clothes in.
Brown returned around 4.15pm armed with the bags which could hold up to 25 kilos.
Mr Farrell said that Mrs Charnock went to her bedroom where she noticed Brown “leaning over in an area where there was no clothes’’ to be collected.
He told the jury Mrs Charnock said that when she entered the bedroom the defendant “jumped up quite quickly and was quite nervous’’.
After Brown left her home around 5.50pm with the clothing, she noticed a small pirate-shaped jewellery box in which she kept her jewellery “was not where it should be’’.
Trial Judge Geoffrey Millar QC heard that three days later Mrs Charnock “found her jewellery box under her bed but the jewellery was missing’’.
Giving evidence, Mrs Charnock said that the last time she had seen the box was just after Brown left her home to collect the bags when she exchanged a ring on her finger for a more expensive ring in her box.
After he returned, she said she made him a cup of coffee and offered to make him and his son “something to eat’’.
“I went to get the coffee and when I came back he was bending down, crouching down by my bedroom window where there was no clothes. I said to him: ‘Are you admiring my costume jewellery?’ and he jumped up nervously.”
Brown later left with her clothes and Mrs Charnock said she discovered her jewellery box “was gone from where it normally sits at the side of my bed’’.
The witness said she found it three days later inside a case under her wrought iron bed.
Mrs Charnock told the jury that the seven rings, a gold watch with charms attached and a pair of gold earrings were all missing which she valued at between £3,000-£5,000.
One of them she described as a gold and topaz ring bought for her by a grandchild and was “very sentimental to me”.
Asked by defence barrister Denis Boyd why she didn’t ask Brown to leave her bedroom, Mrs Charnock replied: “I trusted him.”
Asked why it took her three days to report the theft to police, she said: “I did feel foolish about it. I just felt ashamed.’’
A detective constable told the jury that Brown had three previous convictions for theft, one for receiving stolen goods and a conviction for burglary of a dwelling.
The officer confirmed to the court under cross examination that no fingerprints or DNA belonging to Brown were found on the jewellery box.
Giving evidence to the court, Brown said he had gone to her home as he agreed to buy her second-hand clothing but denied stealing the jewellery.
Mr Boyd asked him: “Did you at any stage take any of the jewellery she says went missing?’’
Brown replied: “None of it. No.’’
Referring to his criminal convictions for dishonesty, prosecution lawyer Mark Farrell asked Brown: “Are you an honest person?”
“Yes, I am,’’ replied Brown.
Prosecutor: “When did you become an honest person?’’
Brown: “When I got out of prison.’’