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Friday, August 26, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Johnson Crime Clan, They Haven't Gone Away You Know

On the run: Burglar from notorious crime family which stole £80m in stately home raids disappears while on day release

A thief from a notorious crime family who netted £80million in stately home raids is on the run after failing to return to prison while on day release.

Daniel O'Loughlin, 35, was part of a group of travellers know as the Johnson Gang which are responsible for carrying out Britain's biggest burglary.

He was jailed for 11 years in 2008 for his role in the heists, which took place over a 20-year period.

But yesterday it emerged the career criminal had failed to return to Hatfield prison in South Yorkshire after being given a temporary release for a work placement on July 18.

O'Loughlin played a key role in the Johnson clan's criminal activities, which saw the Cheltenham family take part in a series of audacious raids on country estates across in Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Worcestershire.

Their most famous crime was the 2006 heist on Ramsbury Manor in Wiltshire, owned by reclusive property tycoon Harry Hyams.

The gang got away with antiques and art valued at about £30 million - making it Britain's biggest burglary on a private property.

Other homes targeted included the Waddesdon Manor, a National Trust property and home of the Rothschild family near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

About 100 snuff boxes worth around £5 million were stolen.

The homes of former Formula One motor racing tycoon Paddy McNally, Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, Sir Philip Wroughton and Lord and Lady Sandys were also targeted.

O'Loughlin was jailed along with his uncle, Ricky Johnson, then 55, his cousins Richard 'Chad' Johnson, 34, and Albi Johnson, 27, and Michael Nicholls, 31.

The family's sentences ranged from eight to 11 years.

Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Murphy, from West Mercia Police, said yesterday O'Laughlin had strong links to the areas of Evesham, Tewkesbury, Cheltenham and Berkshire.

'O'Loughlin has been missing for more than a month and we need to find him and return him to prison.'

Detective inspector Steve Porter, from Gloucestershire police, added: 'While it is thought he does not pose a direct threat to the public, we would advise that he should not be approached.'

The family had lived at the Cleeve Prior travellers' site in Evesham, Worcestershire, where they plotted many of the high-value raids.

A Thomas Tompion clock, dated 1675, and worth £240,000 and a Daniel Delander barometer worth £650,000 were among a collection of silver, porcelain and china treasures which were wrapped in newspaper by the gang and stashed in dustbins in a bunker in Stratford-upon-Avon.

O'Loughlin later made legal history from his prison cell by arranging for a collection of stolen items to be returned to country estates in Swindon and Oxfordshire.

But it emerged that despite getting away with antiques worth a total of £23 million, the gang made a paltry £76,000 from their crimes.

O'Loughlin was ordered by a judge to pay £113,200 in a confiscation hearing or face a further 25 months in prison.

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