Former cashier at Castle Howard ordered to pay back £78,000 after stealing from bosses

Robert Hookway and his wife Shirley at their home near Castle Howard.
Robert Hookway and his wife Shirley at their home near Castle Howard.
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A former cashier at an estate used as the set of classic TV series Brideshead Revisited has been ordered to pay back £78,000 he stole from his bosses.

Robert Hookway, 72, pocketed up to £668 a day while working at Castle Howard, the stately home in North Yorkshire used for the set of the 1980s drama starring Jeremy Irons.

The rogue till operator appeared at York Crown Court on Monday, November 25, when judge Sean Morris ordered him to repay the full £78,670 he stole from the estate over a six-year period.

The ruling comes after Hookway was handed a 20-month jail sentence in October when a jury found him guilty of nine counts of theft by employee.

The court heard that Hookway - described as “well-off” - cheated his bosses, the Howard family, by siphoning over £78,000 in small, daily amounts between 2012 and 2018 while working on the tills in the castle’s public pay booth and ticket office.

The disgraced pensioner pocketed between £31 and £668 a day by issuing false customer ‘refunds’ which he kept for himself.

He claimed he used the money to fund private health care for his wife Shirley, whom he lives with at his comfortable, refurbished 16th-century home nearby.

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In 2004 the couple moved from Reading to a property in Malton, in North Yorkshire, which they renovated completely and spent a “fortune” on annual Christmas decorations.

Hookway also spent thousands on new cars and expensive holidays, although he claimed this was “financed legitimately” through the cashing in of pension plans and part-exchange deals.

Prosecutor Paul Nicholson said Hookway had been employed at Castle Howard since February 2005, mainly as part of the security team, but effectively working as a cashier.

Hookway appeared to be a model employee, but a routine till check by an accountant in August 2018 showed that “something was going drastically wrong”.

CCTV footage showed him taking cash from a customer which ended up in his own pocket after he cancelled the transaction and issued a ‘refund’.

Over the six-year period, Hookway had been taking out an average of £1,612 a month.

He had four previous convictions dating back to the 1960s. His last conviction was for obtaining property by deception in 1973.

Defence barrister Julian Goode said Hookway was full of “remorse and shame for these acts”.

He added that Hookway’s wife was in poor health and the stress she had suffered due to her husband’s actions had been “considerable”.

Hookway will serve half of his 20-month sentence behind bars before being released on prison licence.

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As well as starring as Brideshead in both the 1981 TV and 2008 film adaptations of Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited, Castle Howard has been used as a backdrop in many films and TV shows.

The castle has featured in the 1995 film The Buccaneers. Peter Ustinov's 1965 film Lady L and as Lady Lyndon's estate in Stanley Kubrick's 1975 film Barry Lyndon.

It doubled as the Kremlin, in Galton and Simpson's 1966 film The Spy with a Cold Nose. Rooms and was used for indoor scenes in the series Death Comes to Pemberley in 2013.

The castle and its grounds were also the setting for the Bollywood film Shaandar and the 2006 film Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties. The location also featured in the 2018 Arctic Monkeys video Four Out of Five.

Pop star Ellie Goulding also held her wedding reception at the stately home earlier this year after tying the knot with art dealer Caspar Jopling at York Minster.