Nov 15 2012 by Hannah Bewley, Harrow Observer
powles and barton
TWO thieves who unwittingly stole a violin worth almost half a million pounds have been jailed.
The men broke into a property in Willesden and took the 1735 Pietro Guarneri of Venice violin and, unaware of its value, they then tried to sell it for less than £3,000 to undercover officers in a police sting.
Dean Barton, 24, of Brassey Road, Kilburn, and John Powles, 24, of Haverstock Hill, Belsize Park, were sentenced at Harrow Crown Court on Monday for the burglary of the £425,000 Guarneri violin on August 17.
The court heard how the two men had broken into the property of the 76-year-old retired professional violinist, David Roth, during the day and found where the violin was hidden.
They also took jewellery, foreign coins and a laptop as well as two bows valued at £9,000 in total.
Powles visited Ealing Strings, a music shop in Uxbridge Road, Ealing, and asked for a valuation of the violin using a fake name. The shop owner instantly recognised the true value of the violin and alerted the police.
Brent Police then arranged a fake sale to go ahead and met the two men at a hotel, where they offered to buy the instrument for £3,000.
Barton’s house was searched and items from a previous burglary were found.
Judge John Dudd told them: “You broke into Mr Roth’s house and took a violin of great value, both financially and sentimentally.
“He had been a professional violinist and bought the violin in 1968, it was a hugely significant part of his life and you took it and he hoped to pass it on to his children.
“Although it was recovered and the item has been returned to the owner it can carry consequences for the owners down the years and make them feel vulnerable in a place where they should feel safe.”
Barton, a father-of-one and labourer, admitted the charges against him and was sentenced to nine months for burglary and three months for handling stolen goods, to be served consecutively.
Powles admitted burglary and was sentenced to eight months imprisonment.
n In a description of the case for Borough Commander Matthew Gardner’s weekly Observer column, which could not be published at the time in case it prejudiced the case, he said: “The victim of the burglary was reunited with his violin by the officer in the case DC Holly Sexton.
“After checking that it was undamaged he gave an impromptu performance in the canteen at Wembley Police Station for the investigation team and the other officers and staff that happened to be present. It was wonderful.”