AN art dealer to the rich and famous who stole almost half a million pounds from wealthy and celebrity clients including Dire Straits bassist John Illsley, has been jailed for four years.

Jonathan Poole, who will be 70 next week, sold a stolen painting to TV illusionist Derren Brown and his two thefts from Mr Illsley left him £56,000 worse off, Gloucester Crown Court was told on Tuesday.

Poole ran the Compton Cassey Gallery on the estate of Lord Vestey, Master of the Queen’s Horse, at Stowell Park in the Cotswolds.

After forty years in business he had a worldwide reputation in the art world, running a major exhibition month in cities around the globe.

Millionaire clients in Britain and Germany trusted him implicitly to buy, sell and exhibit works for them.

Poole specialised in paintings by celebrities - like Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood and Beatle John Lennon - of other celebrities.

The subjects of the paintings involved in his crimes included Kate Moss, Steve McQueen and Ringo Starr.

The court heard that during a thirty year period Poole cheated and deceived some of his clients - telling them he would sell paintings for them but then pocketing the proceeds without informing them there had been a sale.

On one occasion he sold a £10,000 painting twice but never delivered to either of the buyers.

His own brother, Nicholas, was also a loser after paying Poole £10,000 for a Ronnie Wood painting that belonged to one of the gallery’s clients.

Most of Poole’s offences were after his gallery was damaged by floods which hit Gloucestershire in July 2007, the court was told.

He claimed many works had been destroyed in the flood and received an insurance payout - but the prosecution said a lot of them, which belonged to clients, were sold by Poole and he kept the money.

Poole, of Poulton, near Cirencester, pleaded guilty to 24 offences of theft and two of fraud.

He denied 32 other offences which the prosecution did not proceed with. They were all left on file.

Judge Michael Cullum told Poole that he had been able to get away with so much because his clients trusted him and were often so wealthy that they did not worry unduly about what was happening to the artwork. "You were better placed than anyone to know what was in your possession and how much it would be worth.”

Poole, who was not legally represented in court after his barrister withdrew, told the court his financial problems had resulted from the internet.

People would look at paintings but then go home and see if they could find something cheaper online, he said.

“Things started to go wrong with the introduction of the internet.

"People would see a work they liked and then go home and see if they could buy it cheaper.

"I hope prison can accommodate my illness which is only going to get worse. My mobility is not good.”