A man who stole the rare 18-century slippers once worn by the Nizam of Hyderabad from Bata Museum in Toronto, Canada, over two years ago, only to return them later after the case grabbed national headlines, has escaped jail term.
Canada's Provincial Court judge Bonnie Croll sentenced Miko Petric, 35, to 18-month community service under conditions, observing that the theft of the royal slippers was 'senseless', 'stupid' and a juvenile impulsive act.
"I am satisfied it was a one-off," she said.
Crafted from gold thread in the early 1800s, the gem-encrusted slippers were insured at $160,000 but were considered priceless. In court, Petric had apologised for his actions saying: "I did a stupid thing".
Under the Canadian law, when a term of imprisonment is less than two years for an offence, a judge can order conditional sentence to be served in community.
Defence lawyer Michael McLachlan said, "This is a sentence that could have been predicted knowing all we do about the underlying factorial circumstances of this rather stupid and impetuous theft."
The prosecution had been seeking jail time for Petric, originally from Montenegro. On January 22, 2006, the shoes, a gold toe ring and an anklet went missing from a heavy glass case at the museum, founded by Czech shoe magnate Thomas Bata and home to around 10,000 shoes.
Pleas were made through the media which was followed by speculation about the potential role of organised crime. The Bata family offered a $25,000 reward. However, in February 2006, a photo shop recognised images of the stolen slippers in photos a customer had brought in to print, and released the images to police.
What unfolded was straight out of a novel, complete with mysterious phone calls and the shoes were dropped off in a church parking lot. Petric pleaded guilty after he was charged with theft over $5,000 and possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000.
His lawyer McLachlan said while in usual circumstances -- particularly when it's a theft from a museum -- it required a sentence of imprisonment, the salient factor of the case was that Petric voluntarily returned the items undamaged.
Petric must remain under house arrest for six months and adhere to a curfew for the following six months. He was also ordered to stay away from the Bata Shoe Museum. He has applied unsuccessfully for refugee status and is likely be deported, said McLachlan.