Customers have been left without thousands of pounds worth of their jewellery for months after a local trader shut up shop and seemingly disappeared without a trace.

When Mark Gallagher closed the doors of Jack Barton Jewellers in Exchange St, Norwich, in June after decades of trading, he was holding on to necklaces, watches and diamond rings which customers had asked him to sell for them on commission.

But nearly six months later, and despite dozens of unanswered phone calls and text messages, many have not had their belongings back - and the phone number left on a handwritten note on the shop door has now been disconnected.

Several notified the police only to be told it is a civil matter. Norfolk Constabulary have now advised, "enquiries have been carried out and have failed to establish any criminal offence has been committed".

After being contacted by this newspaper Mr Gallagher, 68, promised to return the items this week.

He said he had always planned to do so but had been required to hang on to them while the process to shut down the company took place.

Eastern Daily Press:

Retired teacher Sally Murphy, from Upper Stoke, had shopped in Jack Barton’s for many years and left two diamond rings worth a total of about £2,000 with Mr Gallagher to sell.

She said: "I’d had them a while, they had no particular sentimental value but I wanted to consolidate and buy something nice.

"I asked after them a couple of times, said maybe I should take them back, but he said 'give it a little longer'.

"Then I found out the shop had closed, I saw the sign on the door. I felt a bit sick then."

This paper has seen numerous messages sent from Mrs Murphy to Mr Gallagher’s number over the course of several months, asking for updates and receiving no response.

"We had a phone call in September and he said he would send them recorded delivery - but since then I haven’t heard anything - and now the phone number is unobtainable," Mrs Murphy said.

Eastern Daily Press:

Howard Frost, 57, from Gorleston, left more than £10,000 worth of his and a friend’s jewellery with Mr Gallagher.

He explained: "It was my late wife’s, who died in May 2019. 

"It was sitting around and I thought 'nobody else is going to want it, time to get rid of it'. 

"So having to go through the palaver of this is not the best situation."

He entrusted Mr Gallagher with a sapphire necklace, emerald earrings, and an eternity ring, while also recommending the jeweller to a friend who gave him her diamond solitaire ring to sell.

Mr Front said: "He told me he was moving premises, but then I popped by a couple of months later to see the shop was empty.

"Many times I’ve tried to get in touch with him, and no response. I reported it to the police but they said they were treating it as a civil case, which is frustrating."

When the EDP visited Mr Gallagher at his home, he displayed a tray of rings held in safekeeping for former customers, including jewellery labelled Murphy and Frost.

Eastern Daily Press:

He explained his takings had been badly affected in 2018 and 2019 when Norwich City Council put up scaffolding outside his shop, and the pandemic made matters so much worse the business had to fold.

He blamed the council for refusing to come to a deal over rent arrears and instead insisting on being paid full rent through periods of lockdown when he could not trade.

He said he had immediately returned jewellery he was holding for repairs or cleaning, but claimed he had been advised by the liquidator not to return goods to be sold on commission for customers, until now. 

Mr Gallagher said: "I haven’t ignored [Mrs Murphy’s] texts, the phone she was calling has gone.

"My intention is, over the next week or ten days, I will start sending them out, special delivery."

Rikki Burton, of liquidators Anderson Brookes, said prior to his appointment Mr Gallagher "took the decision to retain all jewellery ... so I could make an assessment as to what jewellery, if any, belonged to the bankruptcy estate.

"Upon my appointment, I instructed Mr Gallagher to return all jewellery he was holding on behalf of his customers to those customers, and he has recently taken steps to return those items to their owners."