Woman stole £150,000 vase from Harewood House and later said: 'I didn't know it was that valuable'
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Mary Connors was spotted on CCTV at the historic home reaching over the rope barrier in the gallery section and grabbing the ceramic artefact before hiding it under her coat and walking out.
The 54-year-old, who has a long criminal record, had arrived at the country estate in Harewood, north of Leeds, at around 12noon on August 18 last year with another unidentified female.
After parking up they walked straight to the gallery section, and headed through the designated visitor area before Connors swiped the vase. They then quickly got back in the car and drove off.
Admitting a charge of theft at Leeds Crown Court, prosecutor Erin Kitson-Parker said she was identified from the CCTV and a warrant put out for her arrest. She was eventually detained at her home on Pellon Lane in Halifax where they found the vase in one of the bedrooms.
She gave a no-comment interview to police. She has 22 previous convictions for 41 offences, including 32 for theft spanning from 1986 to 2016.
Mitigating, Leila Taleb said following several psychiatric reports into Connors, it was accepted by the Crown that she was mentally unwell and had “not stolen for financial gain”.
Miss Taleb said that Connors had shown remorse and told her: “I took the vase but I did not know it was that valuable.”
She said Connors had been “in and out of mental institutions” and it was likely she was not taking her medication at the time. She asked the judge not to jail her because it would impact on her mental health further.
Recorder Patrick Palmer told Connors: “You have a very serious record indeed. The vase was obviously very special to Harewood House and this was a serious offence. This would almost inevitably lead to a custodial sentence.”
Taking her health issues into account, he jailed her for 16 months, but suspended it for two years. He also gave her 30 rehabilitation days.
Built in the late 18th century, Harewood House is owned by David and Diane Lascelles, the Earl and Countess of Harewood. The home’s website states the gallery section boasts an “astounding collection of paintings, furniture and ceramics”.