FOURTEEN antiques of ‘significant, cultural and historic value’ have been recovered and two men arrested in connection with three high-profile country house thefts in 2009.
Items with a headline valuation of £5m recovered from premises
in South and West Yorkshire included those from two break-ins which
attracted international attention two years ago - those on Newby
Hall near Ripon and Firle Place in Sussex.
More than 30 officers from three Yorkshire police forces worked
on the case for over a year. The Yorkshire and Humber Regional
Intelligence and Special Operations Units received the initial
intelligence, which was then worked up further following a lengthy
period of surveillance that led them to a run-down caravan and
neighbouring lock-up garage in the quiet Yorkshire village of
The culmination of an investigation carried out with support
from West Yorkshire Police and officers from the Regional Roads
Crime Team, North Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Police was
the raid on two residential premises on Thursday, September 22.
Two arrests were made. Police are questioning a 68-year-old man
from Tankersley and a 44-year-old man from the Leeds suburb of
Middleton. Police suspect links to the illegal drugs trade.
The haul included a George III rosewood Pembroke table supplied
to Newby Hall by Thomas Chippendale in 1775 but stolen in June
2009. Stored beside it was the porcelain stolen in a daring raid on
Firle Place, near Lewes in Sussex in July 2009: a pair of Louis XVI
ormolu and Sèvres bleu vases with an insurance value of £950,000;
the c.1740 Meissen group The Indiscreet Harlequin and a
Sèvres Hollandois Nouveau vase from 1761, valued at £180,000
In March this year Geoffrey Harkin, 58, from Wakefield, a career
thief who used his membership of the National Trust to 'case' the
properties he stole from, was jailed for nine years for a series of
country house thefts including that at Firle, a £27,000 raid on
Longnor Hall in Shropshire and the attempted sale of a £200,000
table clock by Thomas Tompion stolen from Levens Hall, near Kendal
in Cumbria, in September 2009.
Harkin is understood to have passed on some of the items to Gary
Swindell, 58, of Bradford, who was given a three-year sentence for
handling stolen goods - some of which were sold at a car boot fair
in York - but he refused to co-operate over the whereabouts of any
of the stolen goods. However, by then a wider investigation was
Nine other items were recovered in Tankersley, including a
Daniel Delander bracket clock c.1710, stolen from Sion Hill Hall in
Northallerton in February 2009.
Detective Superintendent Steve Waite, head of regional
intelligence for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: "We will now begin
the formal process of identification and will eventually be in a
position to reunite the pieces with their owners.
"A couple of items had suffered minor damage during the ordeal,
but this demonstrates that those involved in the thefts were not in
it for their love of antiques. In fact, recent trends indicate
these types of high-value items are being used by organised crime
groups as currency or collateral in relation to serious
criminality, often involving drugs."
Items recovered represent a fraction of the antiques stolen in
21 country house thefts across England since 2007.