Mortgage advisor stole couple's kitchen before home was repossessed
A businessman stole a kitchen from the home of two friends when their property was about to be repossessed.
Mortgage advisor Darren Newton, 40, paid for appliances and cupboards to be stripped from the Sleaford house – potentially taking around £15,000 off its value.
The former RAF man then lied to police investigating the case, telling a detective he had not been to the house since the owners had left.
Newton, who denied the charges, was found guilty of stealing the kitchen goods, including an oven and hob, as well as units from a utility room and a gas fire from a lounge.
His victims, Andrew and Michelle Milton, said they had been left "hurt" by the actions of their financial advisor who they had considered "a really good friend".
Mr Milton told Lincoln Magistrates' Court: "At first I couldn't comprehend quite what I was seeing.
"It took a minute to sink in and then I realised the whole kitchen was missing."
He added: "It was total disbelief.
"It was so awkward because I couldn't work out how or why it had happened. But the only other person who had keys was Mr Newton."
Giving evidence, an emotional Mrs Milton said: "We're a family just trying to live our lives. You put your trust in someone and this is what happens."
"If you can't put your trust in someone like Darren, who can you trust?"
Newton, of Tower House, in Evedon near Sleaford, met the Miltons in September 2011 to give them advice on mortgage repayments after their house had failed to sell.
He told the couple, who were struggling with their debts, that their best option was to surrender the five-bedroom property and move into rented accommodation as it was likely their home would be repossessed.
The businessman, who runs mortgageforce in Carre Street, Sleaford, also suggested the pair took anything of value out of the house.
He told the court he then asked if he could have the Miltons' kitchen, to which he claimed the pair told him "take whatever you want".
But the Miltons told the court this did not happen and explained they could not bring themselves to gut the kitchen.
In September 2012, Newton arranged for two tradesmen to visit the house, in Lothian Way, Greylees, near Sleaford.
They entered the house using keys given to Newton by Mrs Milton on the understanding they would be passed on to the mortgage provider.
Oblivious to their part in the wrongdoing, they took out the goods and put them in the mortgage advisor's garage so he could use them to refit his utility room.
Mr Milton realised the items – worth more than £6,500 – were missing when he went to visit his home of five years for a final time in November last year.
The police were called and they visited the financial advisor's business.
He admitted in court that he had lied to a detective when he told her he had sent the house keys to the mortgage provider that June.
Newton also told the investigator he had not visited the house since being given the keys, when in fact he had been twice.
Detective Constable Sarah Edwards also said Newton had appeared surprised when he was told kitchen items were missing and refused to answer questions during interviews.
Summing up, Paul Wood, prosecuting, said: "The Miltons came across as clear and credible.
"In complete polar opposition to that you heard evidence from Mr Newton which lacked credibility across the board."
The businessman, who claimed he was "protecting the Miltons" as he thought they were in trouble, was arrested after he returned home from a nine-day holiday to Abu Dhabi last November.
Newton will be sentenced at Lincoln Crown Court at a later date.