Saturday, February 09, 2013

Jail for inept thieves who hid £1.8 million of Chinese artefacts but couldn't find them again

The theft of £1.8m worth of Chinese artefacts from a Durham museum was a "complete farce", a court has heard. An 18th Century jade bowl and a Dehua porcelain figurine were stolen during the raid after they chiselled a hole through a brick wall at Durham University's Oriental Museum in April.

Lee Wildman, 36, of Remmington Road, Beechdale, Walsall, has been jailed for nine years and his accomplice Adrian Stanton, 33, of Telford Road, Walsall, eight years. The court heard how the ornaments were hidden on waste land in the Browney Lane area of Durham after the break-in, "possibly in a panic", and could later not be found.

A witness spotted Wildman two days later searching the waste land, speaking on his phone and "seeming agitated". Judge Christopher Prince said "This is not an offence that can be described as sophisticated. Although this burglary was carried out according to a prepared plan, there were elements towards the end of it that reduced the plan to complete farce."

The bowl and figurine were later found on the waste land by a member of the public. Judge Prince said: "Lawyers with many years experience have not seen a case where thieves have hidden property where they just could not find it afterwards, let alone property of this cultural importance and enormous value." He added that they had shown "crass ineptitude" in being unable to find their haul.

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