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27 September 2012, 14:45 | Updated: 27 September 2012, 16:04
Three members of a gang who stole millions of pounds worth of Chinese antiques from Cambridge a museum in an act of 'cultural vandalism' have been jailed for six years each.
The four-strong gang carried out a professionally planned raid to steal the pre-selected items from Cambridge University's Fitzwilliam Museum on April 13.
They took eighteen irreplaceable "culturally significant'' jade artefacts, worth an estimated total of between £5m and £15m.
The ancient items are believed to have been sold to rich private collectors and may never be seen again.
Today, passing sentence at Cambridge Crown Court, Mr Justice Fulford described the raid as an act of "cultural vandalism''.
The judge said: "This resulted in the loss to the museum and the public at large, not only in this country but across the world, of pieces of incalculable cultural significance and many millions of pounds in monetary value.
The likelihood is they passed into private hands and will not be seen again for many generations, if at all.
Save for the individuals or individual who commissioned this raid, they are effectively lost forever.
They are rare and beautiful objects and I draw the irresistible inference that they have gone or will go to one or more private collectors.''
Steven Coughlan [pictured - below left], 25, of Gypsies Residential Site, in Eleanor Street, Bow, east London, Robert Smith [pictured - left], 24, of Rosedale Stables, Swanley, Kent, and a 29-year-old man from London, who cannot be named for legal reasons, will each serve six years after admitting conspiracy to burgle.
Marvin Simos, 16, of Hanameel Street, Victoria Dock, London, admitted burglary. He was sentenced to a four month detention and training order.
The haul has never been recovered and some of the items may have been damaged as the gang fled, the court heard.
Defence counsel told the court ``others higher up the chain'', who have not been identified, recruited the men to target the jade exhibits.
Detective Chief Inspector Jim McCrorie told Heart: "Today's sentencing follows a large scale operation and a great deal of work to ensure those involved in this burglary were caught and convicted.
Sadly the items, which are of huge cultural significance, have still not been traced but we remain committed to following any new lines of enquiry that could lead to their recovery.”