Eighteen high value artefacts were stolen from the Fitzwilliam Museum in 2012 and have not been recovered

Rathkeale Rovers gang jailed for £57m thefts

Geraldine Kendall, 13.04.2016
Men sentenced for series of museum raids
Thirteen members of a gang convicted of targeting museums in a spate of high value raids have been jailed for their part in the conspiracy.

Judge Murray Creed handed out sentences ranging from 15 months to six years and eight months to the men last week at Birmingham Crown Court after three separate trials. A fourteenth man was jailed last year for his part in the operation.

The group stole rhino horn and rare Chinese artefacts worth an estimated £57m in a series of break-ins at museums and auction houses between November 2011 and April 2012.

In his sentencing, Creed described the operation as “serious organised crime”.

The gang raided Durham Oriental Museum in April 2012 and days later secured their biggest haul when they broke into the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and stole 18 mainly jade pieces valued at up to £18m.

The court heard how the group, nicknamed the Rathkeale Rovers after the town in the Irish Republic where the gang is based, carried out reconnaissance on the sites and recruited petty thieves and criminals to carry out the burglaries.

John "Kerry" O’Brien, 26, who the judge said played a central role in the conspiracy, was jailed for six-and-a-half years. His father Richard Sheridan, 47, received a five-and-a-half year sentence.

An associate of the gang, businessman Donald Wong, acted as a valuer and fixer between the gang and buyers on the lucrative Asian black market. Wong was jailed for five-and-a-half years.

Creed said the crimes had caused “significant harm” to victims, “both museums and members of the public who would otherwise have viewed the material stolen”.

Detectives believe many of the items taken from the Fitzwilliam Museum have been sold in China and are unlikely to be recovered.

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