March 17, 2009
A RUTHLESS thug who did not have "the wit" to carry out a £1.7 million raid on an LS Lowry art dealer was jailed indefinitely.
Violent Casey Miller, a career criminal was simply a 'useful piece of muscle' hired by the gang to terrify Ivan Aird, 43, and his family during the raid, Manchester Crown Court was told.
An iron pumping body builder who took steroids to add to his bulk, Miller, 23, pretended to be a postman so Mr Aird's wife, Louise, 42, opened the door carrying their two-year-old daughter Sabrina, at the family home in Cheadle, Cheshire.
Miller, who has a 'shocking record for violence' burst in holding a 10in knife to her face. The family were threatened they would be killed by Miller while three gang members scoured the property taking the 'cream' of Mr Aird's collection of LS Lowry treasures.
These included Tanker Entering The Tyne, and The Viaduct, worth £700,000 alone.
Today Miller, who is already serving a four-year sentence for grievous bodily harm, was given an indeterminate prison sentence for public protection.
It means he will stay in jail until the parole board thinks he is no longer a risk to the public and must serve a minimum of five years and one month before he can be considered for release.
Jailing Miller, Judge Andrew Gilbart QC, Recorder of Manchester, described the defendant as a 'ruthless' criminal - but did not have 'the wit' to plan the job alone.
"This was a well planned, brutally executed robbery," he said.
"I do not think you planned the raid, you had a keen interest in body building and were using illegally obtained steroids.
"You have been hired as a useful piece of muscle terrify the householders.
"It was a ruthlessly planned, professional crime in which property valued at £1.7 million was taken.
"They will never be available for anyone else to enjoy, apart form your gang's criminal customers.
"That is a loss to the wider public and especially a loss to this region."
Miller, who has 28 previous convictions for violence and robbery, told police he, 'didn't know Lowry from Adam' and denied involvement, but was convicted by a jury following a trial at Manchester Crown Court last month.
Despite his conviction he has still not told police who hired the gang - or where the paintings are now.
The three other robbers and the mastermind behind the raid are still at large - as are £1.7 million of Lowry's artworks.
Detectives believe the buyer of the stolen paintings, possibly an unscrupulous art dealer, paid the gang to carry out the robbery - then backed out because of the publicity surrounding the raid.
Miller was only arrested because Mrs Aird caught sight of his face during the robbery.
Hours after the raid on May 3, 2007, she provided an e-fit to police with an "exceptionally good likeness".
The case was featured on BBC TV's Crimewatch - and police got a tip-off the man they wanted was Miller.
He was arrested and Mrs Aird picked him out at an identity parade.
Mr's Aird told the court the raid was a 'horrifying and degrading ordeal' in which she feared for the life of her family.
Mr Aird had known LS Lowry as a boy and the artist was a friend of the family.
He became a leading specialist in Lowry's work's and ran a business, Grove Fine Art, from the house.
Although he advertised on the internet, he did not publicise his home address as his home was effectively a gallery.
Detectives suspect whoever put the robbery gang together may have posed as a buyer and decided the Aird's were a soft target.
Mr and Mrs Aird sat in the public gallery today as Miller was jailed.
Outside court, Mr Aird said: "God knows where the paintings are now. It is impossible to say. I just think it has been done to order."
DC Chris Barnes, of Greater Manchester Police, said a £70,000 reward was still on offer for information on the raid.
He added: "It is an ongoing investigation. There are three other dangerous criminals out there and these paintings are national art treasures.
"It was a line of inquiry they were stolen to order and because of the publicity the buyer backed out.
"I personally think they are still in existence. I don't think they have been destroyed. Somebody knows where they are. "Everybody in the art world knows these paintings have been stolen... unless there is an unscrupulous art dealer out there who wants them on his walls."
To see Ivan Aird interviewed leaves one with the opinion Ivan Aird is a limp-wristed, effeminate, weakling, or is that just an act ??