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Matthew Turner: Decorator who stole £32,000 worth of watches from Duke of Westminster's bedroom avoids jail

A decorator who stole watches worth around £32,000 from the Duke of Westminster's home has avoided jail "by the skin of his teeth".

Matthew Turner, 24, was given a 20-month sentence, suspended for two years, after admitting the burglary of three watches, taken in August 2022.

Turner was working on renovations at Eaton Hall, on the outskirts of Chester, when he took the items from the bedroom of the duke, otherwise known as Hugh Grosvenor.

Sentencing Turner at Chester Crown Court, Judge Steven Everett, the Honorary Recorder of Chester, said: "You have escaped prison by the skin of your teeth."

The court heard Turner, who was addicted to cocaine at the time, took a Cartier London Tank JC watch, bought for £18,000, a Panerai Luminor Marina watch, worth £7,000, and a Breitling watch, worth about £7,000.

The items are of "huge sentimental value, beyond their financial worth," the duke said in a statement.

"My bedroom is a private, extremely personal space within my home," he said, adding, "I feel very uncomfortable knowing someone who is trusted to do a job has entered my room and stolen my personal possessions."

The burglary only came to light when Harry Fane, who had sold the Cartier watch to the duke, spotted it for sale on an auction site in November that year in what was described in court as an "astonishing coincidence".

Judge Everett said it was clear Turner had declined to tell police where the other two watches, which have never been recovered, were, suggesting "at least one of the watches went to your drug dealer."

At the time of the offence, Turner was working for a firm which had worked on the duke's estate for more than 50 years and were "well and truly trusted" by the family, the court heard.

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Last year, the duke, 32, was estimated by Bloomberg to have a net worth of approximately £9.42bn, much of it from his family's property empire.

The duke, who is godfather to Prince George, was top of the 2023 Sunday Times under-35's Rich List, with an estimated fortune of almost £10bn.

He was said to own "half of London" when he inherited his title and 300 acres of land across Belgravia and Mayfair, on his father's death, in 2016.

Myles Wilson, defending, said Turner had been spending hundreds of pounds on cocaine.

He said: "It's a typical scenario where his debts increase, his dealers become more desperate, he becomes more desperate and he's committed crime and really self-destructed."

Peter Hussey, prosecuting, said Turner had admitted a separate offence of taking £60 from a work colleague that December.

Turner was told he must complete 200 hours of unpaid work and 30 days of rehabilitation activity.