By Staff Copy
Andrew Shannon, 44, described as unemployed and illiterate, robbed six stately homes of antiques and paintings worth thousands of pounds on a "weekend spree" of stealing
Shannon travelled from Dublin to target famous buildings across the country,including
Blenheim Palace and Chatsworth House.
Together with an accomplice, he stole ornamental lions, porcelain vases, figurines, expensive books and even an antique walking stick from Belvoir Castle – which was identified as missing by the Duke of Rutland.
The four-day spree came to an end on a Sunday last August at Castle Howard, when a caretaker spotted Shannon lurking on a second floor of the home where the public are not allowed.
He claimed he was looking for a toilet, but staff grew suspicious and found two £800 paintings hidden in his laptop bag.
He also had a walkie talkie which he used to communicate with his accomplice and a Chinese ceramic lid – the other half of which was with the other thief, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Police later traced Shannon's car and found a satellite navigation unit which had been programmed with six stately homes across the UK.
In court he admitted his part in six burglaries.
Jailing him for three years him at York Crown Court, Recorder Deborah Sherwin said: "Your purpose for travelling to England was to carry out this spree of theft.
"You travelled around the country visiting stately homes and stealing from them. It was pre-planned, you took advantage of these vulnerable homes that do not have the most sophisticated security measures in operation."
Prosecuting, David Brooke, said: "The two men visited a number of stately homes between July 30 and August 3 last year. But they were not innocent tourists visiting them for their beauty, this was a long weekend of crime."
Defending, Taryn Turner, said that Shannon had been claiming disability benefits after being seriously injured in a car crash in 1996. As a result he had suffered four heart attacks.
Speaking after the sentencing, Sgt Daniel Spence, of Malton Police Station, said: "Shannon is a prolific international travelling criminal with numerous convictions of a similar nature and his visit to the UK was with the sole intention of stealing works of art from stately homes and country houses.
"An accomplice in this case was detained by the Gardai in Dublin and has been dealt with in Ireland for handling stolen goods. The Crime Prosecution Service and the police are working towards attaining an arrest warrant and bringing him back to the UK."
He added: "It is a good result for Castle Howard and the police.