GP was victim of art fraud

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A FAMILY doctor lost thousands of pounds buying a fake painting sold to him by John Drewe, the alleged mastermind of a massive modern art fraud, a court was told yesterday.

Dr Jeffrey Sherwin, a GP from Leeds, bought the painting from a reputable auctioneer believing it to be the work of the modern artist Ben Nicholson. In reality, the work - described variously as "Composition 51", "Cockerel" and "Isles of Scilly" - was a fake painted by John Myatt. Southwark Crown Court was told that Dr Sherwin only learnt it was a fake when he tried to sell it at Christie's.

John Bevan QC, for the prosecution, said Dr Sherwin bought the painting for pounds 4,234 from the London auction rooms of Phillips. He had the work framed and kept it for some time before deciding to sell it at the Christie's sale of post-war contemporary art in 1996.

"Unfortunately for Dr Sherwin, it was seized by police," said Mr Bevan. "Had he known what you now know, he may have thought twice about spending pounds 4,234 on it."

Mr Bevan said because the painting had a lengthy history or "provenance", Dr Sherwin expected it to fetch between pounds 8,000-pounds 12,000. In truth, he said, the provenance was created by Mr Drewe who had altered the archives at the Tate gallery and other galleries and museums.

Mr Drewe, 50, from Reigate, Surrey, is alleged to have masterminded a 10-year racket in which he created provenances for non-existent paintings before paying Mr Myatt to create them. Mr Drewe, along with Daniel Stoakes, 52, from Exeter, Devon, denies a charge of conspiracy to defraud.

Mr Drewe also faces a number of other charges, all of which he denies. No charges have been brought against Mr Myatt. The trial continues.