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Mallet’s took action against Dublin dealer Rory Rogers, from whom they bought the 18th century bookcase, seeking recovery of the purchase price of €80,000, plus restoration costs of €31,533. They claimed the bookcase was stolen from the Lord Roden estate in Newcastle, County Down – it has since been returned – and that Mr Rogers had no title to it when he sold it to them.

At a two-day hearing in Dublin last month, Mr Rogers told how he had contacted Mallett’s about the bookcase and later accompanied their chief executive, Lanto Synge, to Daly and Eacrett Antiques in Dublin to view it. They had discussed where the bookcase came from, he said, and they were told it came from a house in the west of Ireland and that Mr Daly had collected it.

However, in a reserved judgement delivered last week, Mr Justice John Quirke found that Mr Rogers had no right to sell the bookcase, as it was the property of Lord Roden. The same applied to Daly and Eacrett, he said.

Mr Rogers, he recalled, had acknowledged knowing that Mallett’s intended to carry out “expensive restoration work” on the bookcase and to put it on view and sell it. Consequently, said the judge, the firm was entitled both to the return of the purchase price and the recovery of the restoration cost.