Wolverhampton Man One Of Seven Jailed For Museum Thefts

4 April 2016, 20:23 | Updated: 4 April 2016, 20:25

A man from Wolverhampton is one of seven who've been jailed for stealing millions of pounds worth of artefacts from museums.

Members of an organised criminal gang at the heart of a £57 million conspiracy to "plunder'' British museums of rhino horn and other priceless Chinese artefacts have been jailed for up to six years and eight months.

The group, dubbed the Rathkeale Rovers because of their links to the Irish town, targeted high-value objects in a string of break-ins, including Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum and Durham's Oriental Museum in 2012.

Judge Murray Creed heard that although the items stolen in Durham and Cambridge were valued up to £18 million, detectives believe they might have fetched more than three times that figure on the booming Chinese auction market.

Members of the same gang also masterminded a bungled attempted theft at Gorringes Auction House in Lewes, East Sussex, and organised the disposal of stolen artefacts in what the judge said was "an extremely sophisticated conspiracy''.

Sentencing seven of the 14-strong gang, Judge Creed said: "It is a conspiracy both sophisticated, skilled and persistent, and involved significant cultural loss to the UK of museum quality artefacts and items from international collections.''

In all, 13 men are being sentenced over two days, after three trials which concluded with the gang and its associates convicted of wide-ranging criminal conspiracy to steal, with connections to Ireland, Europe and China.

The judge began by jailing Richard "Kerry'' O'Brien Jr, 31, of Cambridgeshire - also of Rathkeale in the Irish Republic, for five-and-a-half years.

His uncle, John "Cash'' O'Brien, aged 68, of Fifth Avenue in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands was jailed for five years and three months.

Five others were jailed this afternoon and six more men will be jailed tomorrow.