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Contested proceeds of crime hearing fixed for Oxford art thief Martin Bateman

Byoxfordnewspaper

Sep 3, 2022

A crooked removals man who stole thousands of pounds-worth of antiques – including a drawing of Paddington Bear – will fight prosecutors’ efforts to get him to pay back at least £159,000.

Martin Bateman, 55, was jailed for two years in January after he admitted stealing from 11 victims between 2014 and 2019 while working for Luker Brothers.

He returned to Oxford Crown Court on Friday morning, as prosecutors are attempting to make him pay back the proceeds of his crimes.

They say he made more than £233,000 from the theft of paintings, statues and other heirlooms – and claim he has assets of almost £160,000 that can be confiscated and sold to reimburse his victims.

Alexandra Bull, appearing for the Crown Prosecution Service on Friday, said documents filed by Bateman’s solicitors admitted to making far less cash from his crimes than the authorities alleged.

“In short, we are a long way apart,” the barrister said.

Judge Maria Lamb adjourned the case for a contested proceeds of crime hearing on February 9.

She told the thief: “That will be a hearing at which you will be able to call, if you wish to do so, evidence.

“Whoever deals with the case will hear evidence from both sides and take into account the representations in deciding what the figure for the confiscation order should be.”

When Bateman, of High Street, Tetsworth, was sentenced in January, the court heard how he used his job as a removals man for Headington firm Luker Brothers to cream-off priceless heirlooms and ornaments.

One of his 11 victims branded the defendant a ‘consummate liar’. Another, from whom was stolen an alabaster bust worth £1,500 and a crayon drawing of Paddington Bear, said he must have seen her as ‘easy prey’ and was ‘clearly out to deceive me from the beginning’.

Among the stolen items was an oil painting by French impressionist Pierre Adolphe Valette.

His barrister, Kellie Enever, said Bateman’s marriage had broken down as a result of an ‘out-of-control’ gambling habit. He moved in with his parents and took over caring responsibilities for a family member. His mother had died in 2016, two years after he began stealing.

Jailing him for two years, Judge Lamb said: “Behind this was financial greed to address the predicament into which you had got yourself. The gain you had made, [it] seemed to me, was significant. The loss that you have caused is incalculable.”

She added: “What you have done represents a gross violation of the trust which was placed in you by the individuals who left their belongings in your care.

“You have, it is quite clear to me, made a commodity of their memories.

“You have traded their treasured possessions without the slightest thought for the importance of what they attached to them.”

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward