A property developer accused of swiping eight bottles of champagne from London’s Fortnum and Mason put up the defence that he “forgot” to pay when he left the store to take a phone call.
Douglas Vallender, 52, allegedly stole the bubbly from the famous department store in May last year.
The Cornwall-based businessman, who owns Valle Construction and Valdon Developments, walked out with £348 worth of champagne shortly after lunchtime.
Security staff honed in Vallender and his 17-year-old companion after they were seen heading straight downstairs to the drinks department with an empty store-branded bag, Southwark Crown Court heard.
“They filled the bag up, turned on their heels, walked back up the stairs and left the store,” said James Cartwright, prosecuting.
Vallender and the teenager were stopped a short distance down the road on their way to Piccadilly Circus and taken back through a side exit while police were called.
According to the Daily Mail, Cartwright told the court both men essentially said they “forgot” to pay for the bubbly. The prosecution argued the pair were on a shoplifting expedition.
One of the store detectives, Dipak Singh, said Vallender claimed he had been distracted by his phone.
But when Judge Michael Gledhill QC asked if he saw the older man using the device as he tailed them on the CCTV or any time after, he replied: “No, he was not on his phone.”
Vallender and the 17-year-old both deny theft.
The trial continues.