Gambling addict watch thief sold Portsmouth relative’s Rolex watches

A file photo of Portsmouth Crown Court
A file photo of Portsmouth Crown Court
Daniel Johnston, 35, from Bognor was last seen on the morning of Sunday, May 20

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A GAMBLING addict who was in massive debt stole Rolex watches from a family member worth £70,000 before selling the items across the world, a court heard.

Joseph Crew, 31, of Liverpool Road, dropped his Southsea relatives at the railway station for a weekend trip away before accessing their house where he stole 10 watches in January.

Crew then embarked on a lavish campaign to offload the items before he was finally detained in Australia, Portsmouth Crown Court heard.

Crew sold watches to high end Bond Street jewellers in London before jetting off to Malaysia where he cashed in on further watches en route to Australia.

He was detained at Sydney Airport after police in the UK were alerted by the family member who carried out his own investigation, prosecutor Lucy Conroy said.

International criminal police organisation Interpol were informed of the crime before alerting Australian authorities. But Crew could have slipped through the net when sent back to the UK with no one at Border Force to collect him.

‘Hampshire police were informed he was returning to the UK but he wasn’t stopped when he arrived at the airport. Crew then handed himself in to police,’ Ms Conroy said.

Seven of the watches have since been recovered with three outstanding still.

Mitigating, Jim Osborne said Crew owed ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ from gambling – an addiction he had hid from his family throughout his adult life.

‘He betrayed the victims’ trust and is deeply remorseful but is glad it’s not a secret any more,’ Mr Osborne said.

‘He didn’t do it for a lavish lifestyle but did it for the buzz of gambling.’

Crew admitted to the victim he had taken a further Rolex watch last year.

Judge Robert Hill admitted Crew was on a ‘knife edge’ to getting thrown behind bars before suspending a two-year term for two years with 150 hours’ unpaid work.