A GROUNDWORKER accused of robbing Goodwood House has told how armed police burst into his home – only for him to be released with no action taken months later.
David Donald was taken from his bed at his home in Paulsgrove, put on the ground in his pants and arrested.
The 27-year-old was then taken to Chichester police station, photographed naked, put in a cell for 12 hours and quizzed by detectives who revealed he was being held for the raid.
Lord and Lady March were tied up and robbed of £700,000 of jewellery and irreplaceable heirlooms.
David had previously worked at Goodwood as a groundsman between 2009 and 2013.
He told The News: ‘When they arrested me they wouldn’t tell me about it.
‘They came through my front door with armed police.
‘I was in my pants, I was dragged out of bed and I panicked, as I didn’t know who it was at first. The front door was smashed to bits.
‘I was scared to death and my kids were there – I didn’t know what I’d done wrong.
‘They dragged me down the road, all the roads were blocked off.
‘After about 20 minutes they said ‘‘you’ve robbed Goodwood House”.
‘I didn’t believe it – I said “what? No” They said “the suspect was tall and you worked at Goodwood”.’
David said he was arrested at 6.20am on January 14, the day after the burglary on January 13 at 4.30am.
He was not released from custody until around 9pm.
‘I was so angry. I’m totally innocent,’ he said.
He said he was at home with his partner in bed at the time of the raid.
Lord March was hit over the head after Lady March disturbed the burglar. The pair were forced to hand over heirlooms after being tied up.
Insurers are offering a ‘substantial’ reward for finding the items.
David was told he would face no further action on April 24 after being re-bailed several times by Sussex police.
He said: ‘It was terrible, they were my employers at a distance. Though I left there on bad terms I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I wouldn’t dare do a thing like that. I feel sorry for them.’
David admits he has a criminal record as a youngster.
He added: ‘I couldn’t believe it.
‘It wasn’t like there was a suspect on camera.
‘It was just apparently the suspect was tall and knew his way around.
‘There was nothing to go on so they went ‘‘let’s go for him, he was a bit of a lad’’.’
He said police took his internet router, his phone and other belongings and expect him to pick them up from Lewes or Chichester station.
David added he was re-bailed five times and was under an 11pm and 6am curfew, which he said meant he lost £2,500 in gritting work.
David added: ‘I’ve lost respect for them doing that.’
A document seen by The News says David was released as ‘there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction’.
A Sussex police spokeswoman said Hampshire police carried out the arrest and, due to the seriousness of the offence, an armed response was appropriate.
They said David could have appealed to change his bail conditions.
Detective Inspector Till Sanderson, from Sussex police, said: ‘We are doing all we can try to trace the stolen treasures and identify those responsible, appealing to those with specialist knowledge, the Metropolitan Police Arts and Antiques Team and all police forces, as well as dealers, pawnbrokers, auction houses, stately homes and Interpol, amongst others.
‘My team are seeking forensic evidence in this case and intelligence from other forces regarding similar offences.’