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Monday, March 26, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Csontvary Elopes Leaving $1 million Headache

Hungary’s Most Valuable Painting Stolen

"Thieves stole Hungary’s most valuable painting, Szerelmesek találkozása (“Lovers Meeting”) by Tivadar Kosztka Csontváry, from a Hungarian private collector on March 15.

The painting, sold for Ft 230 million at a Budapest auction in December 2006, was taken from its owner’s home on Orom utca in the First District.

The thief or thieves made off with three other valuable paintings by Pál Szinyei Merse and László Mednyánszky, each worth tens of millions of forints.

The Csontváry painting was sold at an auction in Budapest in December 2006 at the record price of HUF 230 million (EUR 910,000 then, EUR 785,000 now). Police announced that this painting, along with other works painted by renowned Hungarian artists Pál Színyei Merse and László Mednyánszky, were stolen on March 15.

Péter Buzinkay of the National Office of Cultural Heritage told Hungarian Television that this painting by Csontváry is a protected work of art – the others stolen are protected but well-documented as they turned up at several auctions and exhibitions.

Csontváry’s ‘Rendez-vous of Lovers’ is believed to have been painted around 1902. It had not appeared at auctions – and even researchers were not aware of its whereabouts – for a long time. In 2006, it was put up for auction by a family whose members did not consider themselves as art collectors but were in possession of this work of art for six decades.

An unnamed art dealer interviewed by Magyar Hírlap suggested that the stolen Csontváry painting could have been taken out of the country a few hours after the robbery.

He said such high-priced paintings are stolen only by special order, and that everything is thoroughly organised before such a theft."

Stolen Art Watch, Nicholas Hoare Recommends Hot Art

Friday, March 23, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Liverpool Lowry Handlers Jailed, Dey Doo Doe Don't Dey

'Highly trusted' Liverpool men jailed after £1.7m LS Lowry heist

Two "highly trusted" couriers for #1.7m LS Lowry masterpieces stolen from a collector's home while his infant daughter was held at knife-point have been jailed.

Unemployed Kevin Marlow, 29,and former boxer Gerard Starkey 50, claimed they were unaware of the Manchester painter and acted on orders from "sophisticated" criminals.

They were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court to six and a half years and three years and three months respectively.

In May 2007 Lowry expert Ivan Aird was bound by cable ties by "muscle for hire" Casey Miller who tricked his way past Mr Aird's wife Louise by posing as a postman.

Miller - who "didn't know Lowry from Adam" - burst into the modern four-bedroomed property on Brackenwood Drive to carry out a frightening 7am raid on 3rd May.

Three masked men followed and a 10 inch knife was held to the throat of Mr Aird's two year-old daughter, Sabrina, while the walls were stripped of works worth #1.7m.

Among the 14 artworks stolen were The Viaduct - which was once hung above Sir Alec Guinness's fireplace - the Tanker Entering The Tyne and Lowry's palette and brushes.

At Liverpool Crown Court Judge Graham Morrow refused to believe Starkey's defence that he was approached by two unnamed men "out of the blue".

The two men introduced have not been named by the pair for "fear of reprisals".

These men are thought to have "orchestrated" the transportation of the artworks and ordered Kevin Marlow to approach Starkey for the use of his storage unit.

Organised Crime squad officers multi-force TITAN unit along with the Matrix team from Merseyside Police carried out the surveillance operation on Marlow after a tip-off.

The cocaine addict was spotted by police moving artworks by the Manchester artists from a lock-up in Bootle, Liverpool, owned by former boxer Graham Starkey in July 2011

They watched Marlow arrive at the home of Graham Starkey where he revealed he had been sent because the paintings needed to be moved.

Starkey then visited his lock-up on Northcliffe Road in Bootle and selected the paintings that were then taken to back to nearby Marlow in a Renault Megane.

The 29 year-old Marlow then drove to the address the third man in Halewood and was video taped unloading "a number of paintings with several men".

When the flat was raided police found a forgery of the Lowry masterpiece The Factory in an airing cupboard and The Viaduct and Tanker on the Tyne in the main bedroom.

But a further search of the flat in Halewood yielded 40,000 MDMA tablets worth more than #30,000 and #150,000 worth of amphetamine.

A 41 year-old man who was living at the property will be sentenced at a later date but told police he "knew what they were here for" when they raided the property.

The following day a warrant was executed on the unit owned by Starkey and over a dozen paintings including a palette and brushes used by Lowry and others by Arthur Delaney.

The paintings, sketches and utensils by Lowry were valued as being between #5,000 and #30,000 each and included The Market Street and The Surgery.

Mr Aird, who used to play marbles with LS Lowry at his Cheadle home, identified the artworks in August 2011 as being those stolen from him in the violent robbery.

Starkey and Marlow both denied knowing they were in possession of LS Lowry masterpieces or their huge worth.

But Judge Graham Morrow claimed they did not have to be "art experts" to know who Lowry was and his place in history.

He said: "I accept that none of you knew the circumstances surrounding the robbery of the paintings but you were highly trusted couriers and organisers in a hierarchy.

"The high level of profit is self evident.

"You both facilitated the delivery of the paintings so that they could be viewed by a potential buyer, including one man who was Eastern European.

"And you did that on several occassions and the artist's name had been mentioned to you so you were aware of the high-profile of these paintings."

The Viaduct and Tanker Entering The Tyne paintings were worth #750,000 and #600,000 but after being kept in a poor condition within Starkey's lock-up they were damaged by damp and mildew.

Some of the illicit cache hidden in the air-tight container were beneath "Army style blankets" but it is unknown how they got to Merseyside from Manchester.

The Viaduct has since been restored by Mr Aird, whose father George was friends with Laurence Stephen Lowry.

But Tanker Entering The Tyne may not be restored due to the "rabbit skin glue" used to preserve the oil painting after the renowned northern artist completed it in 1967.

Casey Miller was jailed indefinitely in 2009 and Manchester Crown Court heard he had a "shocking record of violence" but not the "wit" to orchestrate the raid on Mr Aird's home.

The art dealer welcomed a "happy ending" to an ordeal that left his family traumatised and him unwilling to keep any more valuable Lowry paintings at his Cheadle home.

He said: "I was powerless to do anything as I watched them put a knife to my daughter's throat, threatening to kill her demanding to know which were the most valuable paintings.

"My wife felt paranoid for a long time afterwards and wouldn't leave the window open upstairs. She always felt like she was being followed down the street.

"My daughter would run up and kick the door for months after the attack but thankfully those memories have faded and now she cannot remember what happened.

"It has been a happy ending today."

Added Mr Aird: "I grew up around Mr Lowry because he knew my father, George, and he taught my brother Phil many techniques.

"I had little idea as a boy how important he was. He was a visitor to the house and my memories from that time are of playing marbles with him and showing him my Action Man toys.

"We spent many a Saturday afternoon together and the paintings mean a lot to me, they have huge sentimental value."

Det Supt Jason Hudson from the Northwest Regional Organised Crime Unit (TITAN) said: "These three men were part of a shocking raid that has left mental scars on the family of Mr Aird.

"We still do not know how they came into possession of the LS Lowry paintings but it is clear that because of their high-profile they were struggling to get rid of them.

"A significant amount of drugs was found at the property where seven paintings and sketches were found.

"These people were more professional drug dealers than art thieves.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, New York Launch For Hot Art, Jet-Lagged Josh Ready To Shock & Awe

Hot Art Hits New York

Joshua Knelman will debut his latest book titled Hot Art in New York on March 22, 2012. The investigative book documents the story of an art and antiques thief as well as the stories of law enforcement officials and attorneys who work to combat art and cultural property crime. The public is invited to the event, which will be held at the Flag Art Foundation located at 545 West 25th Street in Manhattan, between 10th and 11th Avenues at the Chelsea Arts Tower, between 6pm & 8pm

Globe & Mail Review:

Catalogued, admired and stolen

An art thief named Paul (no last name, yet) provided Joshua Knelman with an overview of art theft during a three-year period beginning in early 2008 in Brighton, England. Paul’s thieving ways present a knowledgeable link to this shadowy subject that Knelman relates in the thief’s deadpan, quirky Brit humour spiked occasionally with crude street talk.

Paul learned his trade as a teenager in Brighton from “knockers.” Born poor in England’s vacation spot of the wealthy, he had only one chance to live like them, and that was to steal from them. Hence he “joined the fraternity of knockers,” petty thieves who knock on doors offering a pound or two for granny’s old glass beads, or a thief may con his way inside and snag a painting off the wall. He then scurries off to one of the numerous antique dealers on Brighton’s famous Lanes where a dealer buys the stolen loot and sells it to an unsuspecting collector.

Soon Paul was paying knockers to steal for him, which after 15 years ranked him as a “major handler of millions of dollars of stolen art and antiquities.”

In 2008, the art world was rocked by two spectacular heists, both in Switzerland, five days apart. On Feb. 6, two Pablo Picasso paintings valued at $10-million were stolen from a small Swiss art gallery. And on Feb. 11, a famous Impressionist museum in Zurich was hit by armed thieves who stormed off with four major works by Cezanne, Degas, Monet and Van Gogh.

Whether art is stolen by petty thugs or armed professionals, the cycle is consistent. The thief steals a painting, fences it to a dealer who sells it, and with that transaction the case goes cold. A stolen $6,000 Rolex watch is traceable, but a million-dollar painting is not; it has no serial number. One of the world’s most famous stolen works of art, a priceless Vermeer taken from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990, is still missing.

Knelman asked Paul if he had ever “stolen any famous paintings from a museum.” Paul laughed. “Do you think I’m a … moron?” The big stuff is what he called “headache art,” because it gives everyone involved a headache. It is easy to steal, but hard to unload. Paul dealt in the $10,000 art range, which does not attract attention from the police or the media.

In the 1980s, stolen art grew to an estimated $4-billion to $6-billion, the fourth-largest black market in the world after drugs, money laundering and weapons, according to Interpol and UNESCO. The Art Loss Register, founded in London in the 1990s, lists more than 100,000 works of stolen art. Only 2 per cent have been recovered. In 2001, the register listed as missing or stolen 659 Picassos, 397 Miros, 347 Chagalls, 313 Salvador Dalis, 216 Warhols and 199 Rembrandts. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Stolen Art File is small by comparison, with only 6,500 listings.

Toronto lawyer Bonnie Czegledi became one of the early investigators into stolen art. In 2006, she said, “There are only a handful of detectives who have the experience to investigate art theft properly.” Yet countries worldwide were being looted of their art for markets in New York and London. FBI agent Robert K. Whitman estimated that art market in New York alone is worth an estimated $200-billion annually. “That’s everything – antique markets, art fairs, auction house revenue, gallery sales.” And he added, “That market is totally unregulated.”

Organized crime has entered the lucrative field of stolen art. Knelman covers Montreal’s Hells Angels’ involvement with stolen art in the style of a detective novel. He is at his best reporting work done by the FBI, Interpol, Scotland Yard, the RCMP and U.S. and Canadian city police forces in their efforts to recover stolen art. Too often, however, Knelman assumes a novelistic tone in which extraneous detail slows the pace. And, periodically, his narrative takes on the thug vernacular, which undermines his authority.

Disappointing for me, Knelman gives short shrift to historic stolen art and wartime plunder. There is nothing about a notorious shipment of looted treasures from Cuba that came to Toronto after the Cuban revolution. And, significantly, nothing about art that goes missing, lost or stolen when left with an art dealer, auction house or art patron at the time of the artist’s death.

A final note. Knelman lost contact for a time with Paul, a.k.a. Paul Walsh and Paul Hendry. Sure enough, he had been nicked. Knelman last saw him when he was on parole, writing a blog, cracking jokes, driving a Black S55 AMG Mercedes – not too inconvenienced by his electronic anklet.

Iris Nowell is author of three art books, most recently Painters Eleven: The Wild Ones of Canadian Art.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Liverpool Lags Lowry Jail-time

Ivan Aird Lowry Handlers To Be Jailed

Three men are set to appear in court for sentencing today having pleaded guilty to handling a number of stolen art masterpieces.

Officers from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (Titan), alongside officers from Merseyside Police and GMP, ran an investigation into the theft of LS Lowry paintings after a robbery at the home of an art dealer in Cheadle Hulme on May 3, 2007

Malcolm Shield, aged 41, of Arncliffe Road, Halewood and Kevin Marlow, aged 29, of Halby Road, Bootle were arrested after detectives executed a warrant at a house on Arncliffe Road, Halewood on Tuesday, 26 July 2011.

The pair were subsequently charged with handling stolen goods following the recovery of seven paintings from the house.

A significant quantity of Class A and B drugs and some cash were also recovered from the property.

Shield was additionally charged with possession with intent to supply Class A and B drugs while Marlow was also charged with possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply.

Gerard Starkey, aged 50, of Southport Road, Bootle was also charged with handling stolen goods after a number of paintings were also discovered at a unit on Northfield Road, Bootle.

All three pleaded guilty to the charges.

Erin Edwards, aged 33, of Arncliffe Road, Halewood, was found guilty of possession with intent to supply Class B drugs following an earlier trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

Breaking News:

The sentencing at Liverpool Crown Court of three men over the theft of LS Lowry masterpieces valued at £1.7 million has been delayed.

A Newton hearing from one of the defendants took place yesterday which will continue into this morning.

Sentencing is expected to take place after that. The defendants are Malcolm Shield, 41; Kevin Marlow, 29; and Gerard Starkey, 50. The masterpieces were stolen in a robbery at the home of an art dealer in Stockport, in 2007.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sannd Of Time Move On As NZ Art Thief Released From Jail

NZ's biggest art heist - culprit out of jail and talking

The man who pulled off New Zealand's biggest art heist is out of jail and owning up, for the first time, to a life of crime that includes some of this country's most notorious armed robberies - and others for which he was never caught.

Anthony Ricardo Sannd says he stole an $8 million Tissot painting to order in 1998. He tells how he and his accomplices twice met a Hong Kong Chinese businessman, who offered them $800,000 in $100 notes, which he carried in a Route 66 shopping bag.

By then, Sannd was already a hardened robber. He had served time for a 1984 robbery of an Armourguard van outside the Birkenhead Foodtown in which he and his accomplice got away with $294,000 - the biggest robbery the country had then witnessed - and did another stint for a bank robbery in Kerikeri in 1992.

In 1998, his criminal career reached a grim climax when he stormed into Auckland Art Gallery with a handgun and a shotgun, smashing an elderly security guard in the chest as he ploughed through to reach one of the most prized masterpieces in the city's collection, the 1874 work by Frenchman James Tissot titled Still On Top.

He lifted it from the wall, jemmied the canvas from its frame, and ran out to his waiting Honda 1100XX Super Blackbird motorbike, firing his shotgun over the head of a pursuing pedestrian as he sped off. The entire heist was completed in three minutes and 10 seconds.

Eight days later, police received a $500,000 ransom demand. They arrested Sannd in Port Waikato and found the Tissot underneath his bed.

Gallery conservator Sarah Hillary, daughter of the late Sir Edmund Hillary, said the robbery had been a "nightmare". "He was waving a gun and hit the security guard violently," she said.

When the painting was found, Hillary was rushed to Pukekohe police station in a car with lights flashing and sirens blaring. She viewed the "butchered" painting, which had been found rolled up in an old sack. "We were in shock - it had been in perfect condition and there it was with all these jagged cuts in it," she said.

"We brought it into the gallery and over the next few days the police would bring us little packages of more pieces as they found them. It was so brittle but I was able to piece the bits together and use them."

Sannd was sentenced to 16 years and nine months in jail.

Last week, the repentant robber walked free from Rimutaka Prison - and this weekend, he sat down to tell his entire, astonishing life story in an interview with the Herald on Sunday.

In that interview, the 61-year-old Sannd reveals that:

He was the driver in 13 armed robberies in Australia, while living in Sydney as a young man. He was never fingered for any of them.

In 1978 he was hired to helicopter into Cambodia with five armed mercenaries, he claims, to photograph evidence of the Khmer Rouge genocide - a botched mission that he says was funded by the CIA.

On his return to New Zealand, he suffered a nervous breakdown and, after police found him with weapons, he was admitted to Oakley [Psychiatric] Hospital in Auckland where doctors administered electro-convulsive shock therapy.

He says he now wants to tell his story, to set the record straight. But Neil Grimstone, the former police officer who arrested him, is not so sure. "He was old school - quite respectful of authority but still one of those old-time crooks," Grimstone said this weekend. "A crook is a crook and he will always be a crook."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Anne Bass Home Invasion, Butler On Trial

Former butler on trial in Conn. extortion case


Held hostage on her Connecticut estate, philanthropist Anne H. Bass received an injection from masked assailants who made a chilling ultimatum: Hand over millions of dollars for the antidote, or die from a deadly virus.

The men said Bass and her guest had 20 hours to produce $8.5 million. It was only later, after the men reconsidered and fled the house, that the victims learned that the substance was harmless, likely an ink.

A trial is starting in U.S. District Court this week for Emanuel Nicolescu, a former head butler at the Bass estate, who is the only person arrested in the crime. Nicolescu, 31, has pleaded not guilty to charges including attempted extortion.

His attorney declined comment.

Authorities say Nicolescu and at least two other men broke into the house around 11 p.m. on April 15, 2007, on the estate spanning several hundred acres in the western Connecticut town of Kent. The 69-year-old Bass, former wife of Texas billionaire Sid Bass, also has homes in New York and Fort Worth, Texas.

An attorney for the victims said in court papers they have lived in constant fear that the attackers still at large could harm them again. Bass and the other victim "look forward to justice being done," said a spokesman, Allan Mayer.

The attackers brandished knifes, blindfolded the victims and bound their hands while a 3-year-old child slept in the house. One of the victims saw the man that administered the injection to the other victim wore pale green gloves, according to court documents.

One of the victims told the men Bass did not keep that sum of money in the house and that she would have to contact associates out of state to get the money. At one point, the assailants considered transporting one or both of the victims to New York, according to an arrest affidavit.

The men talked on either cellphones or two-way radios.

After about five hours in the house, the men became concerned with the presence of the child, the health of the victims and their apparent inability to immediately obtain the money, the affidavit says. Before fleeing, the men gave the victims a beverage that they claimed was the antidote and the victims fell asleep.

Bass and her guest were later treated at a hospital.

Nicolescu had been in charge of the estate's household staff and provided housing on the property, but his employment was terminated months before the home invasion, according to authorities.

After the attack, his DNA was allegedly found in a Jeep that was stolen from the family and taken to New York.

Nicolescu's attorney said in court papers filed Tuesday that the attempted extortion charges should be dismissed because federal authorities lack jurisdiction. Nicolescu's attorneys say the law allows federal prosecution of robbery or extortion that interferes with interstate commerce but the crime lacks such an apparent link "other than the fact that one of the victims is extremely wealthy."

A message was left for prosecutors.

Nicolescu was born in Romania and came to the United States after his father sought political asylum as a refugee, his attorney said, according to court papers. Nicolescu has Romanian and U.S. citizenship.

He has been detained since his arrest in Chicago last year. A judge called him a flight risk, saying he has strong ties overseas and faces a long sentence if convicted.

Nicolescu is charged with attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, and possession of a stolen vehicle. He faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted at the trial beginning Wednesday.

About six days after the crime, an accordion case washed ashore in New York that included a stun gun, knife, black plastic airsoft gun, crowbar, syringes, Sleepinal caplets, green latex gloves and a laminated telephone card labeled with the address of the victim.

A co-defendant who is at large is an accordion player, prosecutors say.

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Stolen Art Watch, Diamond Solitaire, Gone In A Flash

Ring stolen from antiques fair

A RING worth about £14,500 ($22,000) has been stolen from a stall at the Wilton House antiques fair.

Salisbury CID is appealing for information after the diamond and platinum ring was taken from a stall on the afternoon of Saturday, March 3.

Detectives have released a CCTV image of a woman they’d like to speak to in connection with the incident.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Shakespeare Folio Thief Raymond Scott, The Taming Of The Shrew

Shakespeare Thief Found Dead In Prison

A serial thief who tried to make £2m by selling a stolen copy of a rare first collection of Shakespeare plays has been found dead in prison.

The body of 55-year-old Raymond Scott was found in his cell at Northumberland prison, on Wednesday morning after a lock down.

It is understood his throat was cut, but prison authorities are not believed to be treating the death as suspicious.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: "HMP Northumberland prisoner Raymond Scott was pronounced dead at approximately 8.40am on Wednesday March 14 after being found unconscious in his cell.

"As with all deaths in custody, the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation."

Scott was jailed for eight years for handling a stolen copy of a rare first collection of Shakespeare's plays.

The 17th century folio had been taken from a display cabinet at Durham University in 1998.

Regarded as one of the most important printed works in the English language, fewer than 250 copies of the collection survive.

They were first printed in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death.

The book was handed in by Scott to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington 10 years later.

Staff recognised the valuable book and called the police, the British Embassy and the FBI.

It was alleged Scott hoped to sell the treasure at auction and share the money with friends in Cuba.

During his trial it emerged that Scott, an unemployed antiques dealer, drove a yellow Ferrari and posed as an international playboy despite having huge debts.

Scott was cleared of the theft but found guilty of handling stolen goods and removing stolen property from Britain.

Stolen Art Watch, Dick Ellis Sow's Seed Of Doubt, Goes Forth & Multiplies

Above, Dick Ellis of  

Art thieves steal one of the 8,000,000 porcelain sunflower seeds

Police are on the lookout for art thieves who broke into Tate Modern in the early hours of yesterday morning and made off with a single porcelain sunflower seed, one of the eight million that form part of an installation recently acquired from the contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
Police are baffled as to how the thieves were able to bypass the museum’s hi-tech security alarm system and navigate their way around the corridors undetected in the still of night. It wasn’t until staff arrived at the museum just minutes before opening time that they noticed one of the seeds was missing.
‘This was an audacious, well planned and meticulously orchestrated robbery,’ said Richard "Dick" Ellis from the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Squad, ‘and we think the thieves could strike again. These are highly intelligent, well-informed thieves at the top of their game and at this stage we can’t rule out an attempt on another sunflower seed.’
The thieves ignored works by Turner and Georg Baselitz on their way through the Turbine Hall which has led police to think the seed may have been stolen to order and could already be in the hands of a collector.
‘The porcelain seed is quite distinctive and would be impossible to sell on the open market,’ added Dick Ellis. ‘It is made from a highly-glazed ceramic material and looks exactly like the sort of seed you find on a sunflower.’
‘Apart from the remaining 7,999,999 left at the museum, there are probably only another 90,000,000,000 in the whole world. The thieves will be hard pressed to offload it unless they already have a buyer in mind. At this stage we can’t rule out a ransom demand for the seed.’
The Art Council, which helped fund the purchase of the installation, is said to be devastated by the theft and has offered a reward of 4p for the safe return of the art work, a figure well in excess of a regular sunflower seed’s current street value.
‘Without the seed the installation is incomplete, ruined,’ said curator Neville Hampton-Wood. ‘The public would simply laugh in our face if we allowed them to see it in this state. Unless we get the seed back it will have been a complete waste of £10 million.’

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Hot Art Released Today As Police Recover Stolen Haul & John Drewe Gets Eight Years

Hot Art Released Today;

Police want to reunite stolen items with their rightful owners

STOLEN clocks, barometers, jewellery and other antiques seized by the police have been photographed and put online in a bid to reunite them with their rightful owners.

More than 500 letters have been sent out to burglary victims across Sussex after 4,000 pieces, of what police believe may be stolen items, were found in Eastbourne town centre.

Detectives from East Sussex Divisional Intelligence Unit recently seized the jewellery, which includes a huge quantity of rings, necklaces, bracelets and watches, from an undisclosed location in Eastbourne town centre.

Detective Sergeant Anita Turner, who has been leading the painstaking operation of itemising and photographing every single piece of jewellery, said, “This has been the biggest haul of seized jewellery I have certainly come across in my time as a detective.

“Not all of the jewellery is of a very high monetary value but I’m sure most of it will have significant value for the owners – we owe it to them to at least try and return their jewellery to them.”

Detective Chief Inspector Mike Ashcroft said he was unable to give details because there were ongoing investigations. However, he said intelligence had led officers to believe the items were stolen from Eastbourne and across East and West Sussex.

He said, “We are very keen to repatriate this property as soon as we possibly can but we are aware of the fact that we need to ensure that the people that come forward are genuine victims.”

DCI Ashcroft said vitims claiming their stolen items would have to fill in a form and there would be ‘robust’ checks before the property was released. He said it was unfortunate it would take time for the genuine victims but explained it was a necessary measure.

DS Turner added, “There are too many items for us to check individually, so we’re asking people who reported items missing or stolen since January 2011 to have a look at the jewellery online and see if they recognise anything and if so, then fill in the very basic form and we can take it from there.”

Pictures of all the items can be found at

Businessman John Drewe jailed for eight years following fraud trial at Norwich Crown Court

A convicted art fraudster who conned a vulnerable retired music teacher in Norfolk out of her home and life savings was jailed for eight years by a judge who told him he was the “most devious and dishonest” person he had ever dealt with

John Drewe, 64, was said to have carried out a “systematic and wholesale” fraud on Jeanne Du Feu, who has lived since 2005 at Cranwich, near Thetford.

Drewe was convicted following a lengthy trial at Norwich Crown Court of theft of the £240,000 proceeds from the sale of the victim’s house in Charlton, south London. He was also convicted of fraud involving the transfer of the title of the property where she lived in Norfolk, which was valued at about £425,000 which he got transferred to his company Energy Resources Group, which had never traded or had any assets.

The cash was spent in just eight months and then when Miss Du Feu was struggling for money he then asked her if she could borrow from a friend. Drewe subsequently targeted her friend, who has since died, and was convicted of obtaining £4760 from her.

The jury however could not reach verdicts on four further fraud counts and these have been ordered to lie on file.

William Carter, prosecuting, said that the victim in this case was vulnerable and was at a “low ebb” at the time.

“Drewe took advantage of that vulnerability.”

He said it was only the intervention of a friend who helped her seek advice from Norfolk lawyer Malcolm Savory which prevented the further loss of her £425,000 home in Norfolk.

“The effect on the victim has been very substantial indeed. In particular it has left Miss Du Feu almost entirely reliant on the goodwill of others, when she should have enjoyed the latter years in relative comfort. She has spent three years or there about living in a house to which she knew she had no title and that of course will be rectified in due course.”

He said that when Miss Du Feu’s funds had run short Drewe had then turned to her friends and had got one of them to give him cash.

“This was a well planned and professionally executed fraud and profits were high.”

He said that when Drewe was arrested at his home in Reigate, Surrey, he had tried to blame others.

The court heard that Drewe, was convicted in 1999 of conspiracy to defraud, forgery and theft, involving a major art fraud and was jailed for six years.

Jailing him and banning him from being involved in the management of any company for the next 10 years Judge Alasdair Darroch told him: “In my view you are about the most dishonest and devious person I have ever dealt with, even through the trial you were fabricating documents.”

He said that having stole the £240,000 proceeds from the sale of the home in London he had tried to get his hands on more of Miss Du Feu’s cash.

He said that Drewe obviously had not learned his lesson from his previous jail sentence and said: “I hope the second time around the lesson might be learnt.”

After the case Det Sgt Dave Kirkham of Norfolk police economic crime unit, who led the complex investigation said: “I am very pleased with this conviction because if the jury had not seen through Drewe’s lies an elderly vulnerable woman would have lost her home and life savings.”

He added: “The constabulary will continue to prioritise cases where the weak, vulnerable and elderly are targeted by fraudsters.”

The court heard how Drewe had previously been jailed for an art fraud in 1999 when he had provided fake history for art works.

He altered the ledger of a major art gallery by going to its archives and removing a page from the catalogue, and inserting a false page.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Return O'Toole's Heart For Forgiveness, Absolution & Cash Reward

'Substantial' reward on offer for return of relic

A "substantial" reward is to be offered for information leading to the return of the missing heart of Dublin's patron, Laurence O'Toole, stolen a week ago from Christ Church Cathedral.

Gardai are now trying to track down two men, who may be foreign nationals, who visited the cathedral last Saturday morning. The men were wearing hats and avoided looking at CCTV cameras.

When they were asked to remove their hats they refused to do so, while one of them carried a backpack, garda sources said yesterday.

The men were in the cathedral between 10.30am and midday -- when gardai believe the theft of the ancient relic took place. Gardai have been busy studying CCTV images from the cathedral itself and from surrounding businesses, shops and pubs.

When the men left the cathedral, one of them was carrying his backpack at knee-height and they were later seen running away from the building.

Gardai said they were enhancing video images of suspects and wanted to interview the men.

It is also likely that the thieves visited the cathedral previously to check out the security arrangements, as the heart was stolen from an iron-barred cage.

"The men on the camera footage could be crucial to our investigation and, at this stage, we are anxious to identify them, if only to eliminate them from our inquiries," one officer said.

More information on the reward and how it would be collected is expected to be released this week. But both cathedral staff and gardai are still puzzled by the motive for the crime.

'Relic hunter' may be behind theft of heart

GARDAI investigating the theft of the preserved heart of Dublin's patron saint are enhancing video images of a number of potential suspects.

Church officials now fear a "relic hunter" may be behind the theft of the heart of St Laurence O'Toole from Christ Church Cathedral last weekend.

And there are suggestions the same person may be responsible for last year's theft of the True Cross from the Holy Cross Abbey in Co Tipperary as well as the attempted theft of a relic of St Brigid from a church in Dublin.

Christ Church Cathedral spokeswoman Nuala Kavanagh said there were fears high-profile relics -- such as the head of St Oliver Plunkett which is encased in glass at St Peter's Church in Drogheda, Co Louth -- could also be targeted.

"The dean believes that these are being stolen to order," she told the Irish Independent.

Although there is no monetary value on the preserved heart, it would be of great value to collectors.

"It's black and it's weird and it's eerie," she said.

The video images being enhanced by gardai were collected from an extensive trawl of footage from CCTV cameras in the area last weekend. Senior garda officers are now satisfied that the preserved heart was stolen from an iron-barred cage in St Laud's chapel, some time between 10.30am and midday last Saturday.

They have ruled out earlier suggestions that the thief, or thieves, might have stayed overnight on Friday in the cathedral.

"The men on the camera footage could be crucial to our investigation and, at this stage, we are anxious to identify them, if only to eliminate them from our inquiries," one officer said last night.


But the motive for the theft remains a mystery. Valuable chalices and candlesticks were ignored and nothing else was missing, gardai said.

The relic was kept in a wooden, heart-shaped container, sealed within the small cage and the old bars were prised open for the robbery.

The Catholic and Protestant Archbishops of Dublin joined forces with the capital's lord mayor yesterday to launch an appeal for the return of the heart.

Catholic Archbishop and Primate of Ireland, Dr Diarmuid Martin, said St Laurence O'Toole was the principal patron of the diocese and his relic was venerated there.

He described the relic as the spiritual heart of the city, which belonged to the people of Dublin and the wider Christian community.

Both Catholic and Protestant churches had stepped up security, Ms Kavanagh confirmed.

"We need to be really careful. There's now a call on all institutions for increased security," she said.

Some churches already have security cameras in place, while others have permanent web cameras in place for live streaming of Mass.

The recent spate of relic thefts, which featured in an article this week in the 'New York Times' has made headlines around the world.

The Church of Ireland Archbishop Dr Michael Jackson said the theft had caused shock and distress -- not only in Dublin but worldwide.

"We've been inundated with calls," said Ms Kavanagh. "There is worldwide outrage."

"What we really long to see is the return of the relic, discreetly, so that it may again take its time-honoured place in the cathedral for everyone to see and use in the context of their own tradition and spirituality," Dr Jackson added.

Lord Mayor Andrew Montague said the relic belonged to the city of Dublin and it was important that it was returned to its rightful place.

Inniskillings Regimental Museum burglary - two charged

Two men have appeared in court charged with burglary and theft from a museum in Enniskillen.

James Carlin, 32, from John St, Belfast, and Carlo Holmes, 56, from Clonard Court, Belfast, appeared before Omagh Magistrates Court on Thursday.

They are accused of stealing six helmet badges from the Inniskillings Regimental Museum at Enniskillen Castle on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Holmes was also charged with assaulting a police officer.

A detective told the court that police found medals and a hammer being carried by Mr Holmes who had tried to disguise his appearance wearing a trench coat, scarf and tweed hat.

A third person arrested in a taxi some distance from the museum has been released on police bail.

The magistrate remanded both men in custody until 26 March.