Thefts from palace 'inspired by grudge'

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The Independent Online
A BUCKINGHAM Palace attendant who stole a Dutch masterpiece because of a grudge against royal officials, was jailed at Southwark Crown Court yesterday.

Duncan Gray, 23, of Hastings, East Sussex, admitted three charges of theft against the Crown and was sentenced to 12 months on each charge, to run concurrently.

He stole the Adriaen van Ostade oil, variously valued at between pounds 60,000 and pounds 350,000, by cutting the wire that attached it to another painting and walking out of the palace. The theft, on 4 January, the last day of Gray's employment, was not discovered until nearly three months later, after it was sold at auction.

William Rose, for the defence, said that his client had not gone to elaborate lengths to deceive palace security: 'He virtually walked out . . . there was not any security.' Last year, 379,000 visitors passed through Buckingham Palace when the state apartments - housing more than 100,000 objects - were opened, with only one minor security incident reported.

Mr Rose said that Gray, a former solicitor's clerk who he described as a 'Walter Mitty character', had stolen An Elderly Couple in an Arbour from a state bedroom because he felt aggrieved that palace officials had shown little sympathy after he had broken his elbow before Christmas.

Earlier, in November, he had taken a 19th-century rosebowl worth pounds 4,000, and silver cutlery worth pounds 397 the following month. The rosebowl has not been recovered. He sold them to an auctioneers, an antique shop and a jewellery shop for less than pounds 3,800 - a fraction of their true value - to pay off debts and take a holiday in Spain.