Henry Moore raiders behind bars for 'priceless' art crime
TWO clueless criminals have been sentenced to a year behind bars after they stole a priceless work of art by the sculptor Henry Moore - and then sold it for £46.Liam Hughes, 22, and Jason Parker, 19, had not even heard of the artist when they slipped into the gardens of the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green under the cover of darkness on July 10 to steal the famous bronze sculpture of a sundial.
The Stansted pair took it to a dealer in Cambridgeshire the next day.
On July 16, the pair returned to the gardens near Much Hadham, to steal a bronze plinth on which another work of art was standing.
Once more, they had no idea of its true worth which, St Albans Crown Court was told, was £100,000.
The dimwit pair then sold the plinth to the same scrap metal dealer for just £182.
Harry Nicholls, who ran his yard in Whittlesford, thought the bronze sundial standing 12 inches high might make a nice present for his mother.
The court was told that when details of the thefts were featured on the BBC programme Crimewatch, Hughes and Parker only then realised the true worth of what they had stolen.
Mr Nicholls also saw the programme and immediately contacted Herts Police, who were searching for the work of art and the missing plinth. As a result both were returned to the foundation.
In court today (Tuesday, November 4) the pair, both of Coltsfield, pleaded guilty to two offences of theft.
John Carmichael, prosecuting, told the court how the former home of Henry Moore called Hoglands had in recent years been turned into a museum.
Mr Carmichael said that the centrepiece of the gardens was the sundial, created by Moore in 1965 and weighing around 21 kilos.
He told the court that it was worth up to £500,000 and was irreplaceable because the cast the artist had used to make it had been destroyed.
He added that the bill to beef up security at Hoglands as a result of the thefts and repair damage had hit £13,000 and the foundation's reputation had also been hit because it was feared in the future owners of works of art would be reluctant to lone them.
Judge Marie Catterson sentenced Hughes to a year's imprisonment and Parker was told he was being sent to a young offenders' institute for the same period.
The judge told them "I accept that you had little, if any, understanding of the real value of what you have stolen."