Former Devon stately home owner admits painting thefts

A millionaire banker's ex-wife, who took paintings from a stately home in Devon, has been given a suspended jail term after admitting theft and fraud.

Twelve paintings belonging to a previous owner were left at Bishop's Palace, at Clyst St George, near Exeter, when Helen Myers lived there.

Myers, 58, auctioned and sold them for about £20,000 despite a "gentleman's agreement", Exeter Crown Court heard.

She was jailed for nine months, suspended for two years.

Blues festival

The paintings were left at the home in trust under an agreement by ancestral owners in the Garratt family.

They included family portraits, including one of John Garratt, who laid the foundation stone of London Bridge when he was lord mayor of London in the 1820s.

Previous owners of the house all agreed to look after them and keep them in place.

Myers was wealthy and ran an annual international blues festival - Bishopstock - in the grounds of the house, the court heard.

Over several years it featured artists including Nina Simone, Van Morrison, and Buddy Guy.

But her lifestyle came to a halt when her husband, Ian, left her and she was forced to sell the house, the court was told.

When she moved out in 2003, she took the paintings.

Their true owner - John Garratt, from Woodbury, Devon - spent eight years trying to track down his family heirlooms.

Myers, of the Boulevard, Imperial Wharf, central London, admitted the charges at an earlier hearing.

She was also ordered to do 200 hours unpaid community work.

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