A 58-year-old woman has admitted stealing antiques and art including a Picasso sketch from Dowager Countess Bathurst while working as her personal assistant.
But the basis of Kim Roberts’ guilty plea to the charge was not accepted by the prosecution at Gloucester Crown Court and there will have to be a trial of issue to resolve the extent of her guilt.
Ms Roberts of Lower Church st Colyton, Devon, also pleaded not guilty today to six other charges of burglary, theft, fraud and possessing criminal property, including one offence of stealing from Lady Juliet Worsley and another of theft from John and Arabella Duffield.
She was told she will be tried by jury on April 13, next year.
The charge she admitted was that between April 29, 2013 and May 24, last year she stole art and antiques belonging to Dowager Countess Bathurst, of Cirencester. She pleaded guilty on the basis that the property was put into her car by mistake
She denied burgling the Countess’ London home in Lennox Gardens, Chelsea and Kensington, between April 30 and August, 20 2013 and stealing antique vases of unknown value.
Her barrister Julie Mackenzie told the court she would be willing to admit theft of the vases on the same basis – that they were put in her car by someone and when she found them she did not return them.
Prosecutor Susan Cavender said the pleas were not acceptable on that basis.
Ms Roberts denied five further charges:
Theft of a Volvo XC90 car belonging to interior designer Emily Olympitis on October 21, 2012: Fraud by falsely giving 1958 as her year of birth to Holland Park Staffing between September 1 and December 31, 2011: Theft between September 30, 2011 and June 1, 2012 of a TV, DVD player, a blanket and a sheet belonging to John and Arabella Duffield; Possession of criminal property – a Mont Blanc pen, clothing items, and accessories – between September 30, 2012 and June 1, 2014 knowing they were the proceeds of criminal activity; and Theft of antique silver hairbrushes belonging to Lady Juliet Worsley between December 1, 2012 and January 31, 2013.
Judge William Hart said the charges she has denied will be tried by jury in a hearing expected to last four days, starting on April 13.
He granted her bail and told her to keep in touch with her lawyers pending the trial.
At an earlier hearing the court was told she had worked as a personal assistant for Gloria, the Dowager Countess of Bathurst, and had allegedly stolen precious paintings, antique vases and silver and pewter plates. The items were valued at £500,000.
The Bathurst family home, Cirencester Park, houses artistic treasures stretching back more than three centuries to the first Earl Bathurst, who was a famous patron of art and literature and befriend famous authors including Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope.
Among its collection are portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, Peter Lely, Joshua Reynolds and many others.
The house also boasts a set of giant marble columns carrying antique busts, collected in Italy by Lord Apsley, the son of the third earl.
The Dowager Countess is the widow of the eighth Earl Bathurst, Henry, who died in 2011 aged 84.
Their son Allen, formerly Lord Apsley, is now the 9th Earl and lives in the Cirencester Park mansion house with his wife Sara.
The Bathursts are one of England’s oldest families, originating from Sussex where they owned Bathurst Castle until they were dispossessed of their lands by Edward IV in 1463, after siding with the Lancastrians in the War of the Roses.