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I'm Robin Hood who was sent by God to take back the wealth they had taken from rest of us; BELFAST CAT BURGLAR WHO HIT LONDON'S RICHEST.

Byline: VICTORIA MCMAHON victoria.mcmahon@mgn.co.uk

HE was crowned the reigning king of cat burglars for good reason.

Cursed by Sophia Loren legendary thief Peter Scott's celebrity "marks" read like a who's who of the rich and famous - with the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Taylor and Lauren Bacall among his star victims.

But despite stealing an eye-watering [euro]35.5million during his criminal career, the Belfast rogue died penniless earlier this month after spending his ill-gotten loot on a flash lifestyle of gambling, wild women and wine.

Aptly-dubbed the Human Fly and the Cat Burglar To The Stars, Peter Scott, born Peter Gulston, honed his skills along South Belfast's plush Malone Road.

The clever middle-class schoolboy shunned his conventional upbringing in exchange for the murky underworld of criminal kingpins.

As a Belfast Royal Academy schoolboy he went undetected wearing his school scarf as a disguise as he carried out audacious burglaries in the well-heeled neighbourhood.

He stashed his loot in his rugby bag slung over his his his shoulder and he wasted no time in spending his inheritance.

His memoirs claimed Scott got away with 150 burglaries before police eventually caught up with him in 1952.

He did a six-month stretch in Belfast's Crumlin Road gaol after being charged with 12 jobs.

But his spell behind bars didn't deter him d m from a life of crime. He left Belfast for the bright lights of London, working as a pub bouncer. He adopted the surname Scott and became the nemesis of the stars, including royalty.

He targeted figures such as Soraya Khashoggi, Shirley MacLaine, the Shah of Iran, Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers and even the Queen Mother, which in her case the authorities had covered up, he said, by issuing a "D-notice", banning any publicity about the burglary.

The Mayfair and Belgravia mansions, with their balconies that lead into plush piles with all sorts of dazzling treasure, were like manna from heaven for the cheeky cat burglar.

From Bond Street shops to stately homes - no one was off-limits and his eye-bulging thieving feats soon proved a hit on Fleet Street.

Zsa Zsa Gabor, Lauren Bacall, Vivien Leigh, Maria Callas and the gambling club and zoo owner John Aspinall all suffered at his nimble, nicking hands.

He recalled: "Robbing that b****** Aspinall was one of my favourites."

In a headline-grabbing heist, Scott swiped a [euro]236,518 necklace from Italian star Loren when she was in the UK filming The Millionairess in 1960.

Billed in the newspapers as Britain's biggest jewellery theft, it bagged Scott [euro]35,478.

Afterwards the fiery beauty pointed at him on television saying: "I come from a long line of gypsies. You will have no luck."

The dapper thief then proceeded to lose every penny at the Palm Beach Casino in Cannes.

During his heyday of the 1950s and 1960s he chose his victims by reading the society columns in the Daily Mail and Daily Express.

In 1957, during one of his jail stretches, Scott met George "Taters" Chatham, renowned as London's most celebrated cat burglar, with whom he formed a partnership that would eventually secure the pair a haul of art and millions.

Always a meticulous planner, Scott bought a new suit before each job, so that he would not look out of place in the posh premises he was burgling.

During one break-in he recalled how "a titled lady appeared at the top of the stairs. 'Everything's all right, madam,' I shouted up, and she went off to bed thinking I was the butler". He was disparaging about his celebrity victims, offering them scorn rather than any sympathy. Scott slammed them as "upper-class prats chattering in monosyllables".

He saw himself as a Robin Hood-type character in his memoirs saying he had been "sent by God to take back some of the wealth that the outrageously rich had taken from the rest of us".

"I felt like a missionary seeing his flock for the first time," he explained when he recalled casing Dropmore House, the country house of the press baron Viscount Kemsley, on a rainy night in 1956 and squinting through the window at the well-heeled guests sitting down to dinner.

He said: "I decided these people were my life's work. The people I burgled got rich by greed and skulduggery.

"They indulged in the mechanics of ostentation -- they deserved me and I deserved them.

"If I rob Ivana Trump, it is just a meeting of two different kinds of degeneracy on a dark rooftop."

He had a string of glamorous girlfriends hanging off his arm, including the model Jackie Bowyer, whom he described as "a great sport".

Scott met her in 1963 and she became the second of his four wives.

His criminal career was the basis of the film He Who Rides A Tiger, made in 1965, in which Tom Bell played him and Judi Dench his long-suffering girlfriend.

Scott himself was serving a prison sentence in Dartmoor at the time and profited little from the film.

Impending age did nothing to slow down his spectacular heists.

In the 1980s he was still scaling walls and drainpipes to fill his burglar bag with his swag. In one Bond Street caper alone he stole jewellery worth [euro]1.7million, and in 1985 he was jailed for four years.

On his release he expanded his social horizons by becoming a celebrity "tennis bum", a racquet for hire at a smart London club where -- as he put it in his autobiography -- he coached yet more potential "rich prats".

By the mid-1990s, Scott had served 12 years inside over the course of half a dozen different stretches. But despite being of pensionable age Scott showed no intention of giving up his thieving capers.

He was jailed for another three years in 1998 following the theft of Picasso's Tete de Femme from Lefevre Gallery in Mayfair the previous year. To the impas-sive detectives who arrested him, Scott quoted a line from WE Henley: "Under the bludgeonings of chance, my head is bloody but unbowed." He often drew on literary inspiration including quoting Confucius, Oscar Wilde and Proust.

In his memoirs, Gentleman Thief published in 1995, Scott admitted to an even stronger motivation than fear as he contemplated another "job".

He said: "Even now, after 30 years, it was a sexual thrill." In 1994 he wrote to the Daily Telegraph to say that he would consider it "a massive disappointment if I were not to get a mention in [its] illustrious obituary column".

The cat burglar to the stars ended up broke, explaining "I gave all my money to head waiters and tarts".

Declared bankrupt, he lived on benefits of [euro]72 a week in a council flat in North London.

Scott died at aged 82 from cancer on St Patrick's Day.

He is survived by a son - and a headline-stealing legacy of a bygone era.

LONDON'S PLUSH TARGETS Belgravia's stately homes

Mayfair mansions

Bond Street shops

The people I burgled got rich through greed and skulduggery PETER SCOTT It is just a meeting of two it different kinds of degeneracy on a rooftop PETER SCOTT

CAPTION(S):

TALES J Autobiography to jewellery worth

Vivien Leigh

DASHING ROGUE Peter Scott stole more than [euro]35m
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 29, 2013
Words:1208
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