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Tealeaf half-inches barrister’s horsehair syrup — from courtroom

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Criminal lawyer puts out all-points bulletin for stolen wig, which went missing in middle of Harrow Crown Court trial

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Louise Oakley wants her wig back.

The criminal law specialist barrister from London chambers 2 Bedford Row has herself been the victim of a horrible crime — someone has half-inched her horsehair syrup from a courtroom.

And what’s more, the 13-year-call lawyer reckons the culprit must be either a fellow barrister or a solicitor-advocate.

Oakley was recently in the middle of an intense immigration fraud trial at Harrow Crown Court in northwest London. Because the proceedings had dragged on for some 10 weeks, the judge had allowed advocates to leave their wigs and gowns in the courtroom at the end of the day.

Oakley returned one morning to find the wig she had bought to celebrate her call in 2001 had disappeared. At first she assumed a fellow lawyer had taken it by mistake.

But then her mind — finely tuned to the behaviour of criminals — became suspicious.

“It was the only item missing,” she tells Legal Cheek. “My 13-year-old, badly frayed gown was still there, as were my collars. And my name is written on the inside of the wig.”

Oakley also suggests that the horsehair is difficult to confuse with others. “To be fair, the state of the wig is pretty disgusting — it’s covered in my makeup.”

The barrister dismisses suggestions that a cheeky boy from renowned Harrow School — only a half-hour walk from the court — could now be showing off a new prize to housemates. “It must have been a barrister or a solicitor-advocate,” Oakley says with conviction.

Fortunately for the barrister, the theft coincided with a spate of warm weather, so the judge allowed the advocates to go bare-headed for the next few days.

“I didn’t want to replace the wig immediately,” explains Oakley, “in case it was taken by mistake and then returned.”

When the temperature cooled and wigs were again required, the judge — Martyn Barklem — kindly lent Oakley his own barrister horsehair. And for the closing speeches, she borrowed the wig of a friendly pupil.

Ultimately, Oakley has had to cough up for a new peruke — and she’s not stinted on the cash, going for the Rolls Royce service from Ede & Ravenscroft in the heart of legal London, Chancery Lane. An E&R number sets barristers back £560.

Indeed, Oakley could have saved about 50 quid by wandering down the road to competing legal outfitters Stanley Ley. Or saved a packet by going on line for a second-hand wig. Legal Cheek sourced an E&R-labelled wig going for £370 on Gumtree, while others went down to as little as 170 notes.

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Still, by going the whole E&R hog, Oakley benefitted from the full ‘Are You Being Served’ approach.

“A very suave man informed me that I’d been wearing my pony tail too high with the wig,” relates Oakley. “So I did learn something from the episode.”