Blandford 'spotted stealing sunglasses on CCTV'

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The Independent Online

The Marquess of Blandford stole two pairs of designer sunglasses and a stick of deodorant from Harvey Nichols department store, a court was told yesterday.

The Marquess of Blandford stole two pairs of designer sunglasses and a stick of deodorant from Harvey Nichols department store, a court was told yesterday.

The aristocrat, 44, who was appearing under the name of Charles James Spencer-Churchill, had been caught as he left the shop in Knightsbridge, central London, with the items in his pockets, Duncan Penny, for the prosecution, told Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court.

The Duke of Malborough, who denies the charge, was noticed by a security guard who was monitoring the sunglasses department on the store's CCTV system.

Lord Blandford has a history of drug abuse and depression. Hours before his arrest last November, he met a psychiatrist, Dr Mark Collins, to discuss a transfer to an American clinic and had appeared "anxious and agitated", the court was told.

When arrested, Lord Blandford insisted he had "forgotten to pay" for the items. But Stephen Hopkins, the security guard, said yesterday that his suspicions were roused when he saw a man "fiddling" with some glasses. "I saw something being thrown to one side as if something was being discarded. To me it looked like a price tag," he said.

Mr Hopkins alerted two security guards, who stopped Lord Blandford when a security tag set off an alarm. They found in his pockets two pairs of Cutler & Gross sunglasses and a stick of Clinique men's deodorant, Mr Penny said.

Lord Blandford had protested his innocence saying: "It is OK. I'm an account holder" His Harvey Nichols store card had a limit of more than £3,000 and he had bought £725 of luggage on account earlier that day. He insisted he had walked off with the glasses because he was in a hurried and distracted state. The Marquess was arrested and taken to Chelsea police station, where he denied removing the tag, insisting he had not put the items in his pocket but walked off with them in his hands.

All video evidence of the incident has since disappeared. The tape, marked as evidence, was locked in the store's security cupboard but lost before the case came to trial.

Dr Collins, the senior consultant psychiatrist who treated Lord Blandford on the day of his arrest, said his patient was taking a mild painkiller used for addictive disorders and a weak tranquilliser at the time. "He was anxious, agitated and a little bit fearful about the process of going to America. At the same time, he was committed to doing it and determined to take appropriate steps for his recovery," the psychiatrist said. He said the medication could cause memory disturbance and confusion though it was less likely in someone such as Lord Blandford who had been taking it for a long time.

Under cross-examination he agreed that his patient should have been "functioning normally" despite the drugs. The trial continues.

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