A jewellery thief who lied about being a “military hero” to York’s top judge has been jailed.

Matthew Massey, 34, initially claimed that he had been in the Army for three years before being discharged on medical grounds.

But when he returned to York Crown Court with a different barrister to be sentenced he claimed he had been in the Royal Marines, which are part of the Royal Navy.

The Recorder of York, Judge Sean Morris, reminded him of what he had claimed through his previous barrister about the Army at an earlier hearing and said his service history claim had to be checked before sentence was passed.

Massey then claimed through his new barrister John Batchelor that he had done some basic training with the Marines, but had then been discharged for dishonesty because he had concealed part of his medical history from the Marines when he was enrolled. He had never actually served in the Royal Marines.

“He’s lied to me,” the judge said and passed sentence for Massey’s crimes at Ogden’s Jewellers in Harrogate earlier this year.

Massey, of O'Grady Square, Leeds, was arrested after police made a public appeal using a CCTV still of him outside the shop. 

CCTV still of Matthew Massey outside Ogden's Jeweller's in HarrogateCCTV still of Matthew Massey outside Ogden's Jeweller's in Harrogate (Image: North Yorkshire Police)

He was originally charged with robbery, but the CPS changed the charge to attempted theft and assault. Massey then pleaded guilty to stealing two watches, one of which was valued as being worth £15,250 and the other £13,850 and assaulting a member of staff at the shop.

The judge said the decision to change charges had been correct and jailed Massey for 17 months.

At the end of the case, he said: “He’s not the first person to pretend to be a military hero.”

Mr Batchelor said Massey’s attempt to steal the watches had not been to fuel drug or alcohol habits, but had been a reaction to the “dark” part of his childhood.

Ogdens Jewellers in HarrogateOgdens Jewellers in Harrogate (Image: Google Street View)

At the earlier hearing, Rob Galley, prosecuting, said Massey had had hold of the watches, but dropped them when the shop assistant grabbed him.

Ian Hudson, Massey’s then barrister, said it was the third such offence he had carried out.

Acting on Massey’s instructions, he said Massey was discharged from the Army in 2013.

He said Massey had walked into a bank with an imitation gun in 2014, was given a lengthy jail sentence for robbery and was released from prison in 2016.

For a time, he worked full-time but in 2019 his mental health deteriorated again.

After carrying out shoplifting and an offence of possessing cannabis, he was convicted and sentenced again for robbery.

This time he had gone into a shop and stolen items with the use of “minimal” force, Mr Hudson said.

He had served two years in jail and been released in 2021.

“Since then, there had been no further offending apart from this one,” said Mr Hudson.

But then Massey's mental health had deteriorated again, and he had been in hospital following a suicide attempt.

He had been diagnosed with a bi-polar condition and severe depression.