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Gold & diamond, precious gem rings

worth more than $250,000 stolen

in daylight burglary at house

A GEMSTONE and jewellery hobbyist had 384 precious rings stolen after three men broke into his Townsville home in broad daylight and randomly stumbled across the jackpot – which he believed was worth around half a million dollars.

Two of the three accused, Joshua Kelly Aaron Mareko, 20, and Brooks Angus McCallum, 21, pleaded guilty yesterday in the Townsville District Court to “burglary by break in company” and “stealing in excess $5000”.

Victim Phillip Lynch-Harlow, a former Ayr State High School teacher, lost the huge haul of valuables on October 5, 2009, from his 15-year hobby in gem cutting, gold and silver smithing, The Townsville Bulletin said.

The rings were nine to 18-carat gold, set with diamonds, sapphires, garnets, rubies and other treasures – including rare colour-change stones and precious gems from across the world.

Mr Lynch-Harlow had relocated his precious cargo from Ingham to Ayr.

He had taken four custom-made boxes, each containing 96 rings, out of a safe and stored them in a bedroom cupboard. None of the rings were insured “due to the sheer cost”.

Also missing, claimed Mr Lynch-Harlow, was 24 plain gold rings, 24 rare stone rings, 3kg of silver charms, 800g of nine-carat gold chain, 400g of 18-carat gold chain and his wife’s irreplaceable jewellery collection.

Crown prosecutor Belinda Bray said Mareko, McCallum and another male had not planned to target Mr Lynch-Harlow but had decided to break into a house that happened to be the complainant’s after going for a walk.

   www.www-gems.com

The men’s pot luck was valued by the Crown as being worth around $453,120 – based on six of 96 recovered rings returned to the victim.

However that initial claim was reduced by half, to $250,000, after Mr Lynch-Harlow was unable to provide receipts or records of the stolen goods and it was contested by the defence.

There’s a difficulty in putting an exact figure on the items taken, with no records of purchasing because Mr Lynch-Harlow is simply just a hobbyist,” Ms Bray said.

The average price calculations were objected to by Mareko and McCallum’s defence barristers, Claire McKinnon and Ted Bassett, as being fundamentally flawed, relying on too small a sample and valued at commercial prices.

Judge John Baulch SC is expected to sentence the pair today. The third accused is yet to face court.

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