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Royal Navy sailor jailed for stealing special forces watches and flogging them on eBay

HMS Prince of Wales: Royal Navy takes command in Portsmouth

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A court-martial for Able Seaman Joshua Cheetham at Bulford Military Court heard that the sailor was peddling the CWC SBS watches for up to £500 apiece. The specialist equipment is capable of operating at 300m below sea level.

The hearing understood that Mr Cheetham, 26, had racked up a series of debts after “living outside his means”, hoping that the sale of the exclusive time-pieces would ease his financial burdens.

The watches have been key pieces of technology for specialist UK forces for the last 30 years.

They were described on the auction site as “built for elite units of the British Forces, the Royal Marines and Special Boat Service”.

The hearing was told that Mr Cheetham made £1,642 by selling six watches looted from stores on the Type-23 frigate, which is based in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

He was finally caught out in February 2021 when eBay buyers contacted the MOD to check the validity of the watches.

When the sailor’s home was searched, officers also discovered Royal Navy-owned batteries as well as another watch.

The sailor, who worked as a logistician, admitted two counts of theft – which stretched over a six-month period – and one of fraud when interviewed by police.

The court heard he had been begun selling the watches in a bid to pay off his overdraft.

He has now been dismissed and sentenced to military prison for three months by a board at Bulford Military Court, Wiltshire.

Major James Eveleigh, prosecuting, told the hearing Cheetham “abused his position of trust” as it was part of his job as a storeman to buy the watches for the Navy.

He said: “He obtained six new CWC SBS diving watches and the total value that he acquired was £1,642.

“As part of the investigation, they searched his home address and found a watch and navy batteries worth £10.28.

“On February 1 2021, he had ordered a further two watches but had no permission to do so. The additional order was to sell them if they arrived.”

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The Major continued: “When interviewed, he admitted to taking some watches. This was a breach of trust and was a financial loss for the MOD.”

Mr Cheetham’s lawyer, Helen Easterbrook, said he had begun overspending and resorted to crime in a bid to fight his debts.

She said: “The reason was that he started to live outside his means. He found himself in a complete mess and made a very bad decision.”

A Royal Navy Seaman salary is approximately £25,970 per year.

Sentencing him, Judge Robert Hill said: “You had a position of trust, of responsibility which you have abused.

“The offending carried on for about six months. It only came to an end when customers from eBay started to make enquiries about whether they were genuine.

“It was not by your own volition – it carried on until that point.” Judge Hill concluded his crime was “so serious”, dismissal was “inevitable”.

The former sailor was dismissed from the Navy and handed a three-month custodial sentence of which he must serve 60 days.

He must also pay £1,367.70.

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