Window cleaner stole £500,000 of paintings from home of late artist Alan Davie, court hears

Nicola Harley
Daniel Pressland is accused of stealing paintings from the home of late artist Alan Davie. - VisitBritain RM

A window cleaner stole £500,000 of paintings from the home of late renowned artist Alan Davie, a court has heard.

Daniel Pressland regularly cleaned the windows at the painter's home and knew there was an insecure window that wouldn't close properly on the first floor, it has been claimed.

Following his death in April 2014 at the age of 93, it is alleged the window cleaner, who also did odd jobs for the painter, stole 31 paintings in a series of break-ins.

The final break-in occurred in April 2015 and police found Mr Pressland at the property in Rush Green, Hertford following a call from a neighbour.

In the back of his transit van, said prosecutor Sarah Morris, were three of Mr Davie's paintings wrapped in a duvet and sheet.

Two were worth £70,000 each and one was valued at £50,000, making the total haul worth £190,000, said Miss Morris.

A jury at St Albans crown court was told that during an interview with the police Mr Pressland told them he kept his ladders in the painter's garage and, having gone there to collect them, saw the three works of art which he assumed had been "put out there for the rubbish."

"He said he had taken them away as a favour and he thought he would use them for skateboard ramps for his son," said the prosecutor.

The painter was born in Grangemouth, Scotland, and went to the Edinburgh College of Art in the late 1930s. During his life, his works were shown at the Tate Gallery.

The window cleaner is accused of stealing paintings from the artist's home over a year between 2014 and 2015 and passing them to an auction house for sale.

Miss Morris said: "The total value of paintings stolen is approaching half-a-million pounds in 31 paintings."

Mr Pressland, 42, of Billericay, Essex, pleads not guilty to two offences of burglary, two offences of converting criminal property and two offences of transferring criminal property.

With him in the dock is 42-year-old Gavin Challis, of North Street, Nazeing, Essex, who pleads not guilty to possessing criminal property in the shape of two paintings by Alan Davie which were found at his home.

Miss Morris said that after his arrest, a phone belonging to Mr Pressland was examined by the police and, because of text communications found on it, Mr Challis was arrested.

One message found from Mr Challis to his co-defendant read: "Alright mate, how much do you want for one of your big pictures. I need one for my hall."

At his home, said the prosecutor, two paintings by Mr Davie were found there worth in total £26,000.

The men deny the charges and the trial continues.

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