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Jury convict Stephen Tillyer of stealing £300,000 viola from train

A Hawkinge insurance official could be facing the sack after a jury decided he was guilty of stealing an antique viola worth £300,000.

The instrument had been left on a London to Dover Priory train by a member of the London Symphony Orchestra.

It was taken from the train at Folkestone West by Stephen Tillyer- who claimed he planned to restore them to its owner.

A viola similar to the one left on the train. Picture: Stock image
A viola similar to the one left on the train. Picture: Stock image

But the jury at Canterbury Crown Court rejected his account and ruled that he was a thief!

Now shamefaced Tillyer, 49, from Gloster Close, Hawkinge, who had denied offences of stealing the instrument and a schoolboy’s rucksack which had been also been left on the train, could face the boot from his insurance job in London.

The judge adjourned sentence for five weeks for the preparation of probation reports – which will include whether his bosses will be taking any action against him.

Prosecutor Neil Ross said the incident was caught on CCTV showing Tillyer taking the two items as the train arrived at Folkestone West station in January.

PC Jack Tomlin, from the British Transport Police, took stills from the video and confronted Tillyer two days later when he arrived at the station.

He told the officer: “This is a mistake. I haven’t stolen anything. I picked something up on the train.”

PC Tomlin said Tillyer then took him to a vehicle in the carpark where the Viola and its case and the schoolboy’s rucksack were found.

The jury heard a statement from musician Edward Vanderspar, who had been recording with the LSO in Hampstead and had travelled to his home in Marden on the 16.32 London Canon Street train.

He revealed that when he realised he had left the 16 Century instrument on the train in desperation he dialled 999!

The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court
The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court

He said: “The train was busy. During the journey I was extremely tired and spent the journey reading and napping.

“When the train was approaching Marden I was in a daze from being so tired. I suddenly realised that I had to get off the train. I was in such a rush I forgot to get my viola.”

Mr Vanderspar said it was only when he got into his car at the station he realised the instrument was missing.

“I started panicking and I immediately rang 999 because the instrument is so important to me, not only professionally but also emotionally!

“My instinct was to try to chase the train but my knowledge of its route is not sufficient

“After 48 hours of complete nightmare for me until I was told it had been recovered.”

The jury were shown footage showing Tillyer taking the rucksack and then walking towards the viola case.

Tillyer walked past, “stopping and appearing to look up and down the carriage before taking it from the shelf, having first looked at a label”.

The married man, who had no previous convictions or cautions, said he had got onto the train at Canon Street with cans of strong lager to return home.

He was granted bail until the September hearing.

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