Saturday, February 13, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Insight Into How Police Investigate Art Crime !!!!

£10,000 painting found on thief's wall

A prolific thief has been jailed after a valuable painting stolen from a Hull museum was found hanging in his dining room.

The £10,000 work of art, painted by the renowned John Ward more than 150 years ago, was taken from the wall of Hull Maritime Museum, in Queen Victoria Square, city centre, on June 17 last year.

Initially, it was feared the 12in by 18in painting of a ship, called Schooners Ellen Crawford and Dwina, had been stolen to order and would never be recovered.

It was spotted by chance when two Humberside Police detectives carried out an arrest in a dingy two-bedroom terrace on Princes Avenue, off Greek Street, west Hull.

PC David Jacketts and Detective Sergeant Darren Rose had gone round to arrest Brian Adrian Thompson, 48, for failing to answer bail following four convictions for assaulting his wife.

They found Thompson, who has 58 previous convictions for theft, had hung the painting, in its impressive gold frame, on the chimney breast of his dining room wall.

It was surrounded by magazine cuttings and his wife Suzanne Lynford's own art work.

It is believed Thompson acquired the painting for his wife, due to her love of art.

He has now pleaded guilty to possessing criminal property and been jailed for 18 months.

His wife was also cautioned for possessing criminal property.

Doncaster Crown Court heard Thompson denied stealing the artwork and there was no evidence he had been the one to remove it from the museum.

Judge Jacqueline Davies said: "Items like this are part of the heritage of the city of Hull, building on its reputation and art links with the maritime world.

"This was a serious offence. It would be obvious to anyone looking at it that it was an item of some value - the frame is gilt and ornate. It has a plaque upon it describing its age and there are written documents on the back giving an indication to its age.

"It is valued in the region of £10,000, but it is not just monetary value - it is historic value."

When the police recovered the painting, they did not take any fingerprints or carry out any forensic tests on it for fear of damaging it.

Thompson had screwed two holes into the back of the frame in order to hang it, but no damage was caused to the actual painting.

Judge Davies added: "The item in question is a work of art belonging to the Maritime Museum.

"Thankfully, the painting has been recovered, but it was a valuable item in your possession for a period of up to three months."

The court heard it was painted in 1843 – the same collar tag as PC Jacketts.

He added: "It was a strange coincidence."

Simon Green, assistant head of culture and lifestyle for Hull City Council, which runs the museum, said: "We are delighted that the painting was found and safely returned to its home in the Maritime Museum."

Mr Green, who revealed the painting had been screwed to the wall when it was taken, added: "A theft from a public collection is a theft from everyone in the city."

Art Hostage Comments:

This is a valuable insight into how Police investigate art crime.

When an art crime is committed Police issue a Crime number to the victim and then, wait for it, Police cross their fingers and hope they stumble across the stolen art during an unrelated investigation.

That's it folks, that is the sum of Police efforts into investigating art related crime.

In this instance Police were lucky, but the other 99% of the time stolen art remains outstanding.

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