McVicar's son guilty of Picasso shotgun raid

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The Independent Online
HAVING a famous father can be a mixed blessing. But when your dad is a convicted criminal once described as Britain's most wanted man, it is a reputation few children would want to emulate. Yet Russell Grant- McVicar, 33, yesterday followed in the footsteps of his father, John McVicar, as he was convicted of a number of armed robberies, including the theft of a Picasso.

Grant-McVicar's father, who escaped from Durham high-security prison in 1968 while serving 26 years for armed robbery, believes his son turned to crime to punish him. "He is ... getting back at me for not being around in his childhood when I was in prison," he told BBC Radio 4 after his son escaped from police custody in 1993. He says his son refused to listen to his advice and he barred him from his life in 1991. "He is going to get a long prison sentence and that is going to further parody my life."

Mr McVicar also wrote: "The only time I saw Russell regularly was when he was aged four to six. He idolised me, but I wasn't smart enough to keep out, and I was bundled back into the nick for another eight years."

When Russell was jailed for four years in 1988 for cheque offences, Julian Goldberg, defending, said: "It is very hard being the son of a famous father. The two have a strange love-hate relationship. The father blames the son for not having learned from his example and the son blames the father for neglecting him."

McVicar senior, 58, reformed after serving 11 years and began a career as a writer-broadcaster, scripting a film of his life in which Roger Daltrey played the title role. He did not attend his son's two-week trial. Although Grant-McVicar referred to his father, the jury were not told of the connection.

Yesterday at the Old Bailey he was convicted of 16 charges of robbery, attempted robbery, firearms offences and escape. He is expected to be sentenced today. He denied the offences, which took place between 1993 and 1997 and were said to have made him pounds 100,000. The most recent involved the theft of the Picasso from the Lefevre gallery, central London.

Grant-McVicar, carrying a holdall, strolled in and asked a staff member the price of the oil, Tete de Femme. He was told pounds 600,000. "When told, he said `I have got a shotgun. I want that painting'," said James Hines, prosecuting. "She was stunned and said `I beg your pardon?' He repeated his demand and reached into the holdall and produced part of the stock of the shotgun."

Grant-McVicar told her to take the painting off the wall, and when she said she was not allowed to, he ripped it down. He returned to a waiting taxi and forced the driver to take him to south London. He sold the Picasso to Peter Scott, 67, whom he regards as his surrogate father. Scott, self- styled society cat-burglar,was jailed for three-and-a-half years last week for handling the painting. His accomplice, Ronald Spring, 70, got a two-year suspended sentence. Grant-McVicar, who defended himself, said he robbed to make "a spiritual statement" on behalf of starving children. He had been instructed by members of "the most powerful cult group on the planet". He robbed "not to get rich but under direction that I make a spiritual statement." But the prosecution pointed out that after making pounds 50,000, Grant-McVicar lost pounds 10,000 gambling. "What about the starving children?" Mr Hines asked.

He said the crimes "were carried out in a most cowardly fashion, namely by carrying an imitation gun, or pretending to carry a firearm, such as to terrorise innocent members of the public." The first raid was in June 1993, on a bank in Dorking, Surrey. Grant-McVicar was arrested soon after and then escaped but was recaptured two weeks later. While on remand he escaped from hospital and proceeded to carry out a series of robberies throughout London.

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