A GAS engineer stole a £16,000 watch after being called to install a new smart meter.

Cameron Beard went to Carolyn Walker’s home in Uckfield to fit the device.

The 26-year-old was also asked to check the boiler in the loft.

Ms Walker had gone back downstairs and was unaware of what Beard was up to.

Her bedroom door had been left ajar, revealing the Rolex lying on a bedroom dressing table.

Beard pocketed the device and left.

Ms Walker then searched high and low for her watch, before realising that Beard must have taken it.

Fortunately, she had his full details as he had signed off all the paperwork for British Gas.

At Brighton Magistrates’ Court, Beard admitted theft.

But magistrate Mark Durrell agreed with his colleagues that they did not have sufficient powers to punish him.

Martina Sherlock, prosecuting, said the incident happened in August last year and involved a “breach of trust” by the British Gas employee.

She said: “Ms Walker had contacted British Gas for a smart meter to be fitted.

“Cameron Beard arrived and entered and conducted that work.

“He asked to have access to the boiler in the loft.

“As she was downstairs, her bedroom door was ajar, and she had left the watch on the table.

“The next day she completed a thorough search of the house but couldn’t find the watch.”

Ms Sherlock said Beard had left signed paperwork, so he could be identified by his name and employee number.

Beard, of Keats Avenue, Redhill, was invited to speak with the police and admitted the theft.

He told the police he had sold the watch for £3,000 to a jeweller shortly afterwards.

Ms Sherlock said the valuation was made in 2013, but for insurance costs the value was in fact higher than £16,000.

She said: “It is not just the emotional and physical loss of the Rolex watch, Ms Walker has had other repercussions for her finances.”

Ms Sherlock said the case should go to the Crown Court for sentencing and Beard’s lawyer agreed.

Magistrate Mark Durrell said: “We decline jurisdiction of this case.”

He told Beard he will be granted unconditional bail to attend Lewes Crown Court on March 5.