A police officer who feels sorry for a surgeon after his family heirlooms were stolen discovers he staged a burglary and committed mortgage fraud worth over £1 million on 24 Hours In Police Custody.
In tonight’s episode of the channel 4 show, Bedfordshire police receive a 999 call from orthopaedic surgeon Anthony McGrath, 46, from St Albans.
He reports over a quarter of a million pounds worth of antiques have been burgled from a country estate he and his wife are renting on the Luton Hoo Estate – including a Persian rug, valuable antiques and clocks, and a 19th century red marble rococo fire surround, with ormolu inserts.
But for veteran CID detective Dave Brecknock, something about the case doesn’t quite add up. The man reporting the crime, who has since been sentenced to eight years in prison, seems very anxious to make an insurance claim on the stolen property.
‘When we did a financial background check he was absolutely skint, almost to the point of bankruptcy,’ he explains. ‘That gave us the motive. He requested immediate payment from the insurance company of £50, 000. That would tend to say he needs the cash as opposed to he wants his belongings back.’
Anthony McGrath, 46, from St Albans, appears on tonight’s episode of Channel 4’s 24 Hours in Police Custody. He calls 999 and reports over a quarter of a million pounds worth of antiques have been burgled from a country estate he and his wife were renting on the Luton Hoo Estate in 2015
The surgeon is questioned by DC Kathy Layton in tonight’s show. Following a trial which lasted 18 weeks at Luton Crown Court, Anthony McGrath (pictured left) was found guilty of fraud by false representation and committing acts with intent to pervert the course of justice
But after first hearing the allegations, the detective expressed sympathy for the culprit.
‘I just felt really sorry for him,’ says DC Brecknock. ‘You’ve had family heirlooms, your antiques from your deceased father’s estate stolen. For him, sentimentality of a lot of the property outweighs the commercial value. This must be absolutely devastating.’
Despite his expertise, it doesn’t mean the crime is going to be easy to solve as with over 70 antiques to be recovered, DC Brecknock needs evidence from the scene of the crime.
‘We have nothing to go on,’ he admits. ‘No suspects for burglary, no forensics, no witnesses, no nothing. Where do we go?’
DC Dave Brecknock (above) pushes Anthony McGrath for pictures of the stolen items so he can identify if any have appeared on the antiques markets
DC Kathy Layton (above) faces the surgeon in her first interview with him after his arrest – but he just replies ‘no comment’
In McGrath’s Luton house, police find several of the antiques which were reported missing – including a liquor set in a wooden box which was hidden at the top of the wardrobe
‘The same with financial crimes, you chase the money. Just follow the money, follow the antiques, find out where they’ve gone.’
The surgeon reports the burglary to his insurance company. His claim is for 250, 000 pounds. The next month DC Brecknock pushes him for pictures of the stolen items so he can identify if any have appeared on the antique’s market.
And unfortunately for Anthony McGrath, the police officer has not only spent nearly a quarter of a century solving complex burglaries, he also has passion for antiques.
He confesses he once had a side line in restoring pine furniture.
‘All these pictures come through and then we get to this one of the fireplace which he reported as being stolen,’ says the detective, showing several photographs to fellow officer Kathy Layton, who assists him on the case. ‘That fireplace he reports was wrapped in Persian silk rugs.’
‘He’s supplied a receipt to the insurance company saying those silk rugs were £45, 000. His total claim is now over a quarter of a million pounds. By this point, I’m suspecting he’s committing fraud.’
DC Brecknock’s suspicions are raised when he analyses the window which was allegedly broken into. He says: ‘You smash a window closest to the lock. You don’t smash a corner to try and then get your hand all the way through to get that lock’
And the expert’s suspicions are raised ever further after analysing the window which was alleged to have been broken into.
Pictured, the 19th century red marble rococo fire surround which was found in the cellar of McGrath’s Ireland country estate
‘You smash a window closest to the lock,’ he says. ‘You don’t smash a corner to try and get your hand all the way through to get that lock.’
Four months after the alleged burglary and without the insurance company paying out, Anthony sends new pictures to the detective in the hope of validating his claim.
But after tracking the GPS from the surgeon’s phone, DC Brecknock determines the photograph of the fireplace was taken from a family home in County Weath, Ireland.
DC Kathy Layton appears frustrated after interviewing the suspect, who she says ‘has an answer for everything’
DC Kathy Layton goes through evidence ready to put it to the surgeon – but he turns it around and blames her for purposely trying to evoke emotion out of him
‘This is a picture of the actual item which was taken on 5th July 2015 – three months after the burglary,’ he explains. ‘In April he told me that fireplace was stolen from his cellar – that’s enough for a warrant.’
The detective follows his own advice and investigates the property in Ireland where he discovers the alleged stolen fireplace in the cellar – the very place Mr McGrath told cops it had been stolen from.
Then, after searching the house in Luton, several of the antiques, including a liquor set in a wooden box which was hidden at the top of the wardrobe, is found.
Back at the station, Anthony is taken in for questioning by DC Kathy Layton. To her frustration, he seems to ‘have an answer for everything’ and explains that by coincidence, there’s a duplicate for much of the property that’s been stolen.
Despite his web of lies, surgeon Anthony McGrath is brought into custody on suspicion of fraud and booked in
Nearing the end of the episode, the surgeon comes back to custody and is charged with fraud by Dc Dave Brecknock
‘I’ve had three of these and that is the only remaining one we have,’ says Anthony, speaking of the antique box. ‘It’s not being hidden if that’s what you’re saying.’
Revealing a photograph of the fireplace, DC Layton then explains that the police have managed to determine where the picture was taken.
‘You and I both know that’s not the same fireplace,’ he says, before trying to pretend it has different dimensions to the one he’d reported stolen.
But his web of lies are no longer any good and Anthony McGrath is taken into custody.
The fake burglary led police to uncover three counts of mortgage fraud totalling over £1 million. False tax returns in the couple’s name had been sent to the bank and copies were discovered in their study, with Anthony McGrath’s finger prints on them.
Following a trial which lasted 18 weeks at Luton Crown Court, he was found guilty of fraud by false representation and committing acts with intent to pervert the course of justice.
During the trial, the jury heard how the couple’s mounting debts had led him to carry out the elaborate fraud in the hope of receiving a large insurance pay out. He has now been sentenced to eight years in prison
The Detective & The Surgeon – Monday 8 April, 9pm, Channel 4
Anthony McGrath’s conviction
– Surgeon Anthony McGrath, 46, of Clarence Road, St Albans, attempted to swindle his insurance company out of £180,000 by staging a burglary at a house he and his wife were renting on the Luton Hoo Estate in 2015
– He claimed almost 100 items had been stolen, including a Persian rug worth £35,000, valuable antiques and clocks, and a 19th century red marble rococo fire surround, with ormolu inserts.
– Anthony McGrath shipped some of the items he claimed were stolen to his family home in Ireland, using a hired van that he didn’t realise had a tracker.
– The police then uncovered three counts of mortgage fraud totalling over £1 million. False tax returns in the couple’s name had been sent to the bank and copies were discovered in their study, with Anthony McGrath’s finger prints on them
– Following a trial which lasted 18 weeks at Luton Crown Court, Anthony McGrath was found guilty of fraud by false representation and committing acts with intent to pervert the course of justice
– Anthony McGrath has now been sentenced to 8 years in prison
– During the trial, the jury heard how the couple’s mounting debts had led them to carry out the elaborate fraud in the hope of receiving a large insurance pay out.
– They also heard how Anthony McGrath compulsively lied in an audacious bid to con as much money as possible out of a number of different people.
Source: Bedfordshire police