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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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Omega Speedmaster watch deposit A rare Parradine Pegasus sports

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Omega Speedmaster watch deposit
A rare Parradine Pegasus sports car was sold to a buyer, Mr Smith, in May 2009. The buyer also wanted to buy a Jaguar V12 race engine that I was rebuilding for it, but would not be completed for some weeks. He asked if I would accept the above watch he valued at £750, as a deposit on the engine, to which I agreed and I gave him a receipt for this amount. I estimated that the completed engine would cost approximately £3,000 depending on specification. He was to contact me and supply the specification to which he wanted the engine built.
I had no contact with Mr Smith until approximately May 2011 and could not contact him, as he had moved from Glasgow to the Midlands and I had no contact address/phone number for him. At this stage, the only contact had been by ‘phone, hence, no email address. Also, I was still waiting for him to confirm the specification of the engine.
Just prior this, February 2011, I sustained a compound fracture to my ankle, requiring extensive surgery. I received an email from him sometime around May 2011, asking if the engine was finished, as he was of the opinion that the £750 deposit was full payment for it and that he had been too busy to contact me until this time. I replied by email, and reminded him that this was not the case and referred him to the receipt I had given him. Owing to my ankle problem and not being fit to work on the engine for several months, I gave him the option of taking the engine “as is” and provided a detailed build list and costs as what had been done prior to my accident, and full details of work outstanding along with costs. In the “as is” condition it would cost him £1500 with further £1000 needed to complete the engine. The other option being to wait until such time as my ankle had fully healed. This was all recorded in my email.
There was no reply to this email and no further contact from Mr Smith until December 2014. On this basis and being annoyed and greatly inconvenienced at having to constantly move this large and heavy (300+kgs) piece of machinery around my garage, I decided to sell the engine to another buyer in August 2014. At nearly seventy years of age, I believe pushing this engine around over several years, resulted in severe spinal damage, leading eventually to deep spinal surgery to insert titanium screws and rods between L4 and L5 vertebra. My wife, who is a GP, is also of this opinion.
Having not heard anything from him for three years, I decided to sell the watch on eBay in February 2014 and it achieved £1650.
In early December 2014 Mr Smith ‘phoned me and demanded that I return his watch and was subjected to an hour long rant when I informed him that I had disposed of the watch. In February 2015 I was contacted by the local police who informed they had received a complaint via the Wiltshire police that Mr Smith had accused me of stealing his watch as he had seen it listed on eBay
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
What would you like to know about this please?
I am just offline to travel home but I will be back in about an hour if that is ok?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

How long am I legally expected to retain this engine and deposit(watch) before being able to dispose of them?

Thank you

Terry Houghton

Why didn't you just return it to him?
You seem to be saying that you didn't work on the engine? Or is that wrong?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The engine was never with him. The car already had an engine in it when I sold it to him. This was another engine I was preparing for racing. I did work on the engine and was waited two years for him to confirm the specification he wanted. The engine was in my garage and I would not let him have it until he paid the balance as per my statement.

The main point being that I heard nothing from him for two years and then a further three years. How long am I legally obliged to keep the engine for him after he paid a deposit, losing any chance of selling the engine elsewhere. And was I legally entitled to sell the watch after nearly five years waiting.

Thank you

Sorry, this doesn't immediately make sense.
What does the watch have to do with the engine issue?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The engine was valued at approx. £3000 when finished. The watch was valued at £750 and taken as a deposit on the engine, the balance to be paid on completion of the rebuild. I did not have any contact from him for two years and then a further three years, as per my statement - do you have my statement, or is it corrupted? If so, I can re-send it.

Thank you for your help

What attempts did you make to contact him in the intervening period?
It appears that you sent one email.
Was it the case that you couldn't contact him and he didn't contact you and that you had no way of finding him?
It appears that this started in 2009 (when you got the watch?) you had no more contact until one contact in 2011 and then nothing else until 2015 from the police.Is that it?
Is it the case that he gave you the watch in place of £750 out of the total cost for the job or was it some kind of security.
Are the police taking any action? I think it unlikely
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


I couldn't contact him as he had moved from Glasgow to the Midlands soon after he bought the car and I had no contacts for him. He even provided the DVLA with the wrong address on the V5. I had a computer replacement in mid 2011 so lost all my emails.

Yes, he gave me the watch as the deposit, valued at £750, on the engine and yes, the only contact I had from him was an email in May 2011 and in December 2014 when he accused me of stealing the watch and selling it on eBay. I have a formal interview with the local police, under caution, on Wednesday 18th March, so that is why I'm keen to have some answers as to my position.

If this man has any complaint at all, surely it should be a civil matter?

The investigation came from the Wiltshire Police, which is odd because he's from Glasgow and working in the Midlands. I suspect he has a friend or relative in the Wiltshire force.

I hope this helps

thanks for your kind assistance


I would be highly surprised if the police took this any further.

The definition of theft is “the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving. He handed the watch over to you as a deposit for payment for the job that you were doing on the engine. It wasn’t a dishonest appropriation. It was given willingly. Further, he didn’t hand it over to you for safekeeping or as kind of security but as part payment. In that respect, you are entitled to sell the watch unless there was an agreement to the contrary whereby it was just some kind of security deposit.

I understand that it wasn’t a security deposit and that in effect he gave it to you as part payment but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will not say otherwise. It would come down then to who the police believed but they would have to be certain of his version of events beyond all reasonable doubt and based upon the facts it would be impossible for them to bring a successful prosecution.

Because of the relatively low amount of money involved in the whole scale of things it would be normal for the interview to be carried out by local police at the request of Glasgow police because it is simply not worth the resource of sending officers to Wiltshire from Glasgow.

The police may make something of the fact that you hung onto the watch for a number of years before selling it however that would easily be answered by simply saying that you quite liked it and hung on to it before eventually deciding that you didn’t need it.

After all those years, you are entitled to sell the watch even if it’s held as a deposit and sell the engine to recover your costs BUT you have to give him notice that you are going to do that unless he either collect it and/or pays for it. This is the only bit that is problematical for you, because you had no contact details for him and it’s obviously impractical to hang onto things for ever on the off chance that he one day surfaces from the woodwork. After all, he could actually have been killed or died and you would never know and you would end up hanging onto these items indefinitely so at some stage practicality takes over and I think that you got to that stage. If it ever ends in court all you would need to do is prove that you have made all reasonable attempts to contact him.

If this is going to be any kind of legal matter at all I agree with you that it would be a civil court matter and not a criminal court matter and I think it unlikely that a judge would have any sympathy with him, in the civil court, if he expected you to hang onto things for 5 years.

Can I clarify anything for you?

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