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The extent of the theft is still being catalogued but the value of the property is understood to run into many millions.

In what has been dubbed the iPhone raid, the two men with Irish accents used a third party to assist them with the robbery after forcing their way into a Co Armagh home. Beaten, bound and gagged, the victim watched as a 'smart' phone was used to film his collection. The videos were immediately sent to an apparently knowledgeable accomplice who then advised the thieves on what to steal and what to leave behind.

Before fleeing, many discarded objects were smashed with a hatchet.

Among the stolen items from what has been called a world-class art collection were two paintings by Canaletto, exceptional antique furniture and other chattels. The dealer's address book was also taken, which contained the contact details of high-profile clients who have been alerted to the possibility of a further raid.

Still fearing for his safety, the victim, a retired vicar and well known at major art sales, has not been identified.

Amidst speculation that the heist was connected with the region's sectarian underworld, the Police Service of Northern Ireland is working with An Garda Siochana on the case. It is understood similar raids were carried out on properties in the Co. Armagh area two years ago.