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Rare stamps 'stolen', court hears

PUBLISHED: 06:52 12 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:17 24 February 2010

A CARE worker betrayed her position of trust and stole £14,000 worth of rare stamps from an Alzheimer's patient, a court heard.

Melanie Milnes, 40, and her husband James, 33, then sold four valuable albums of stamps, including 19th Century Penny Blacks and Penny Reds, to stamp dealers across southern England.

A CARE worker betrayed her position of trust and stole £14,000 worth of rare stamps from an Alzheimer's patient, a court heard.

Melanie Milnes, 40, and her husband James, 33, then sold four valuable albums of stamps, including 19th Century Penny Blacks and Penny Reds, to stamp dealers across southern England.

The couple, from Long Melford, appeared at Bury St Edmunds Crown Court yesterday where Mrs Milnes denied a charge of theft and Mr Milnes denies four charges of handling stolen goods.

Mrs Milnes was employed from 1996 to 2000 to help care for retired surgeon Dr James Moffat, now 83, and his wife Dorothy, who lived in Rede, near Bury St Edmunds.

Mrs Moffat, who died in March 2000, suffered from Parkinson's disease and Mrs Milnes initially cared for her, but then looked after Dr Moffat who was diagnosed as suffering from dementia in 1998.

However, after Dr Moffat was moved into a residential home, in April 2000, his two sons discovered that part of his valuable stamp collection, which he had built up over his whole life, was missing.

Rufus Stilgoe, prosecuting, said police went to Milnes' home in September 2000, and discovered three albums of stamps.

"She handed over three albums which she said were given to her by Dr Moffat for her children. She was interviewed that day and denied that she stole any stamps.

"She admitted it was unethical to accept them and agreed to give them back," Mr Stilgoe said.

However, police later discovered that Mr Milnes had already sold four other albums, totalling £14,000 in value, to collectors in Norwich, Ely and London, saying he had inherited them.

Mr Stilgoe said none of the other carers used by the family ever received large gifts or even knew of the stamp collection.

The couple were interviewed by police again when Mrs Milnes said nothing and Mr Milnes denied the stamps were stolen and denied saying he inherited them.

"The Crown say that Mrs Milnes, in her capacity as carer, knew Dr Moffat's illness and his stamp collection," Mr Stilgoe said.

"At some time when he was not in his right mind and she knew that, he gave them to her and she has taken them knowing that she shouldn't. Mr Milnes sold them knowing full well they were stolen," he added.

Giving evidence, Richard Moffat, one of Dr Moffat's sons, said his father was an avid stamp collector and had audio, written and photographic records of the vast collection which included Penny Blacks, the first self-adhesive stamps ever made, and was kept under lock and key.

Mr Moffat said his father began to show signs of dementia as early as 1996.

The trial is expected to last until Friday.


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