Anyone with a valuable antique cabinet in Lancashire would be sensible in getting it insured against theft – or hope they are targeted by someone as clueless as two thieves who relieved a museum in nearby Durham of antiques worth £2m – and then promptly lost them.
A Chinese vase can be worth more than a Chippendale antique desk these days, and is a lot more portable. This was proven when 36-year old Lee Wildman and his accomplice Adrian Stanton, 33, planned a daring heist at the Oriental Museum, Durham University, just before Good Friday last year. Under cover of darkness, they chiselled their way through the wall to head straight for the museum cabinets, which they relieved of just two items: a porcelain figurine and an 18th century jade bowl, worth together around £2m.
The items are safely under lock and key again now because, in a sequence worthy of an Ealing comedy, the luckless pair forgot one important thing: to remember where they stashed the loot. The antiques were hidden on wasteland, but when Stanton returned to collect them later he quickly discovered that one piece of scrubland looks much like another. A witness spotted him frantically searching the area, remembered the theft and called the police. He was later jailed for eight years while Wildman – sporting a handsome black eye in his mug shots – got a nine year term.
The theft proved how easy glass cabinets can be to broken into. A sturdy, lockable Victorian oak pedestal desk from a Preston antiques dealer is a far safer place to store valuables.
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