Late artist’s window cleaner robbed boss of prized paintings

A window cleaner jumped at the chance to steal £500,000 worth of art from the home of late Scottish painter Alan Davie, a UK court has heard.

Daniel Pressland had cleaned Davie’s windows and performed odd-jobs for him since 2002. Aware of a first floor window in the artist’s Hertford home that could not be closed properly, Pressland burgled the house several times in the months following Davie’s death in 2014.  

The window cleaner stole 31 paintings before being apprehended by police. They were tipped off by Davie’s neighbours who witnessed Pressland loading canvasses into a van on the day of his final break-in on 2 April 2015.

In his defence, Pressland claimed to have thought that the paintings had been “put out… for the rubbish”. Prosecutor Sarah Morris told St Albans Crown Court that Pressland stated he “had taken them away as a favour and he thought he would use them for skateboard ramps”.

According to Crown Court Judge John Plumstead, Pressland had not foreseen that the art gallery which represented Davie had kept a record of all of his works and would realise the paintings were missing. Pressland had even contacted an auction house and sold two of the stolen paintings before he was arrested.

Davie’s work was at one time displayed at the Tate Gallery and had been admired by artists David Hockney and Jackson Pollock. Nine of the paintings stolen by Pressland have so far been recovered.

Sentencing Pressland to four years’ imprisonment, Judge Plumstead told the window cleaner that he had leapt on the opportunity to steal Davie’s artworks “like a vulture on a carcass”.

This is not the first time an artist’s handyman has been caught stealing from his employer. In December 2016, Pablo Picasso’s former electrician and handyman was found guilty of possessing stolen goods after being accused of hiding 271 of the artist’s works in his garage for almost 40 years.

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