A clinical nursing manager has been given a 14 month suspended sentence and fined £8,000 after stealing a Rolex from a dying patient at St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester.
Joseph Miller, 40, of Barnham Lane, Walberton, stole the silver Submariner Rolex watch worth £5,000 from 68-year-old David Davis, from Birdham, who died shortly after arriving at hospital.
Police said the watch was reported missing on August 7, 2014, after it disappeared while Mr Davis was being tended to in accident and emergency.
It was located 18 months after its disappearance and reunited with the owner’s son, Jon.
Miller appeared at Portsmouth Crown Court on July 11 and pleaded guilty to theft.
He was sentenced at the same court today (Tuesday, August 9).
Reading from Miller’s plea, Judge R Hetherington said in court Miller claimed ‘he was not dishonest from the outset’.
Miller said he picked up the Rolex with his own belongings without noticing, after rushing to join part of the team working on Mr Davis when he was brought into A&E.
However, he claimed he panicked when he realised he had the watch in his possession and everyone was looking for it.
From that point onwards, Mr Miller kept the watch in his father’s shed where he stated in his plea that it was ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
His thoughts were taken up with the tragedy of losing his father and mother within a short space of time.
Judge Hetherington said: “I understand that you panicked, however, there came a time 18 months on in February 2016 when you decided to do something with this watch, whether it was to sell it or to have it cleaned or valued.”
In February 2016, Joseph Miller went into R L Austen, East Street, Chichester, and asked for the watch to be sent off, stating his was a possession of his late father.
However, after leaving his home address at the jewellers, Miller returned to the store and asked to leave a different address.
Judge Hetherington said: “And then, as if you were foreshadowing how this would look to someone, you ask the jeweller to ‘keep the matter low key because it sounds like you were doing a dodgy deal’.”
The jewellers were alerted that the watch was stolen after they had sent it off, and immediately called the police.
When handing Miller his sentence, suspended for two years, Judge Hetherington said: “You acted in a strange way and out of character.
“You did not need the watch for financial gain, your motivation was unclear.”
He added: “The imminent stress that you were under at the time does partially explain your actions but it does not fully explain what you did. It remains something of a mystery.
Judge Hetherington said despite Miller’s guilty plea and good character references, he had to be punished ‘for such a mean crime’.
He said: “I can hardly say how much this must have distressed the family of Mr Davis. It was a despicable and mean offence which was a breach of a high degree of trust.”
Amanda Parker, Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation trust director of nursing and patient safety, said: “The actions of Mr Miller were both shocking and deplorable and we are very sorry that Mr Davis’ family have been subjected to this ordeal.
“We expect the very highest standards of honesty and integrity from all our staff and Mr Miller abused the trust placed in him by his profession, his colleagues and his patients.
“He has not worked at the Trust since being charged and will not be returning in the future.
“We hope that the outcome of today’s hearing provides the family with some comfort and brings to a close what has been a very difficult period for all concerned.”