A quick-thinking police officer spotted the accused murderer of a Full Sutton antiques dealer acting suspiciously as he tried to sell some of the loot, a jury heard on Monday (25 November).
PCSO Beverley Feirn noticed Graham Richardson, 27, pacing up and down on Bridlington Promenade before he paid his first visit to the Ramsden dealers, it was claimed.
It has been alleged Richardson battered antiques collector Peter Battle to death and then plundered a hoard of gold and silver over his victim’s dead body.
It is claimed Richardson spent five weeks robbing from Whisker Cottage, Full Sutton, where the 56-year-old amateur gold and silver trader had lived alone.
Yesterday Teesside Crown Court was told PCSO Feirn was patrolling Bridlington seafront on 20 January when she spotted Richardson “pacing up and down” with a “bag for life” from Morrison’s supermarket.
The jury was told it contained coins, which Richardson said he had been offered £650 for, and other items which Ramsden’s gave him £620 for.
Richardson refused an offer from Ramsden’s for the coins but had also tendered a number of silver watch casings in an old dishwasher tablet box.
Counter clerk Stephen Bemrose told the jury: “I thought it was a little bit suspicious there were so many.”
Richardson told the staff he had been left the items by his grandfather, a former watchmaker who had recently died.
He was also offering for sale an antique silver serving spoon and sugar shaker, it was said.
Mr Bemrose initially offered £350 for the items but Richardson said no and they eventually agreed £620, which was at the top end of Ramsden’s margin.
After the sale, PCSO Feirn walked in to obtain Richardson’s details and requested they hold onto the items rather than sending them back to head office where they would probably be melted down.
The items were retained and now form part of the prosecution case.
PCSO Feirn’s visit stuck in the mind of Ramsden’s manager Louise Leppington who was also on duty when Richardson returned to the shop on 28 January.
He again had a supermarket Bag for Life, this time with silver coins in it, the jury heard.
Ms Leppington said: “He said he had found some more items in his grandfather’s loft and would we give him the same deal as last time.”
Remembering the police interest, she told Richardson they had enough silver in stock but she would take his details in case they were interested in the future.
Richardson gave her a mobile number and a name she knew to be false because it was different to the name he had given on his first visit, she said.
She also spotted the knives and forks he was trying to sell all had tiny labels explaining their hallmarks.
These were the sort of labels used by collectors, antique dealers and auction houses to explain the background history of items for sale, it was said.
But Richardson maintained he had found them in his grandfather’s loft, Ms Leppington continued, adding:
“I said ‘I wish I had a grandad like that.’”
But she knew normal people did not label cutlery like that and also that Richardson had given her a different name “which would have rung alarm bells even if the police had not spoken to me,” she added.
The court also heard Richardson had been a regular customer at Malton Post Office for years to cash his unemployment benefit cheques.
But more recently he had picked up a money card he could use abroad, telling staff he wanted it for internet shopping.
He also acquired – but later cashed in –£800 of American Express travellers’ cheques which he bought over the counter saying he was “going to travel around Europe with his girlfriend,” the court heard.
He also bought a second-hand Vauxhall Astra for cash, without bothering to test drive it, the court heard.
Former owner Andrew Hadaway, from Filey, told the jury this was unusual in his experience of selling cars.
He added: “Normally, people want to take the car for a test drive.
“I tried to show him around the car but he had no interest in the cosmetics of it.
“He just wanted to hear it start and that was pretty much all he was interested in.”
The deal was done in under 20 minutes. “He handed over the money, signed the documents and was on his way,” he added.
Earlier, the trial was told Richardson had sold five gold half sovereigns for £440 to Hubert Brown’s in Scarborough on New Year’s Eve.
Thirty minutes later he was back in the shop, telling staff he had found another full sovereign in his pocket, for which he got another £160.
His visit was followed by two other men from Malton, also offering sovereigns leading staff to remark “there must have been a clear out of gold sovereigns in Malton”.
The jury has heard no one knew what happened when Richardson called at the Mr Battle’s cottage on 30 December.
He may have pleaded for credit or “snapped” when he found himself surrounded by all the valuables Mr Battle kept around his house, it has been claimed.
It is alleged Mr Battle lay dead from a shattered skull for five weeks, during which Richardson returned time and again, and helped himself to trinkets, jewellery, and pieces of gold and silver which he sold to pawnbrokers and jewellers.
The court heard he posted notes on the door of Mr Battle’s cottage, saying he had gone away, and hung up a bed sheet to stop people looking in.
But friends eventually became suspicious and called police who forced their way in and found the antique dealer’s body.
Richardson, of Riverside View, Norton, denies murdering Mr Battle. The trial continues.