"The court heard that Mr White, who has no previous convictions, had been prescribed the antidepressant Seroxat [Paxil] at the time of the incident. This combined with alcohol had lessened his inhibitions, magistrates were told."
Hand it over! The fan who stole Smiths star’s guitar says, ‘I’m sorry’
Man apologises to musician for snatching instrument after gig and keeping it for 10 years
Published: 18 February 2010
by JOSH LOEB
FOR 10 years, music fan Stephen White secretly held all the answers to a musical mystery that had mystified one of Britain’s most revered guitarists.
Every time he looked at the shiny 1964 Cherry Red Gibson SG guitar hidden in his flat, he gulped at the memory of how he had stolen it from Johnny Marr, the musician who shot to fame with cult rock group The Smiths.
On Tuesday, a decade after pinching the £30,000 instrument backstage after a gig at the Scala nightclub in King’s Cross, Mr White, a 38-year-old carer, owned up to the theft in court.
He told Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court that he was “disgusted” with himself.
Mr White had been in the crowd packed inside the Scala to see Marr’s band Johnny Marr and the Healers in 2000 on the night he walked off with the guitar.
The court heard how he occasionally played it at home and at one stage took it to the Tin Pan Alley guitar shops in Denmark Street, Bloomsbury, to have it repaired after he accidentally stood on it.
Police recovered the instrument after acting on a tip-off.
Mr White said: “I’m disgusted with the whole thing. There’s a victim here. I can’t reconcile myself with the behaviour of that night.”
The court heard that Mr White, who has no previous convictions, had been prescribed the antidepressant Seroxat at the time of the incident. This combined with alcohol had lessened his inhibitions, magistrates were told.
After watching Marr perform, Mr White went backstage to meet the musician and noticed a stage entrance was open. On discovering the guitar unattended, he made what his counsel, Oliver Dean, described as “a spur of the moment decision”. He picked up the guitar, walked out with it via a fire escape and took it home in a taxi. It is believed the guitar was found at Mr White’s Enfield home with the ticket from the gig in 2000 attached to it.
Marr, a renowned guitar collector famous for his songwriting partnership with singer Morrissey, was reported at the time as being “very upset” by the disappearance of the instrument and offered a reward for information leading to its safe return.
Mr Dean said his client felt extremely guilty about taking the guitar and had expressed a wish to write and apologise to Mr Marr.
Police Constable Christopher Swain said Mr Marr, who is currently on tour in New Zealand, was “ecstatic” about the instrument’s return, adding: “He bears no malice towards the defendant.”
PC Swain said: “The guitar did have a high sentimental value to him. Initially he though he had been targeted by a professional thief but when the details came to light he said he didn’t want the matter to go further.”
Prosecutor Dorothy Thomas said that although the guitar would normally have been worth around £6,000, it had been estimated as having a value of £30,000 because of its association with Marr, who now plays with The Cribs.
Mr White was sentenced to 200 hours of community service. A spokesman for Mr Marr said last night (Wednesday): “He is obviously very happy to have his guitar returned.”