Gang jailed for national plot to steal museum valuables

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Members of an organised crime gang who masterminded a series of raids on museums and auction houses across the UK, including in Lewes, have been jailed.

Between November 2011 and April 2012, Chinese artefacts and rhinoceros horns worth millions of pounds were targeted in six incidents - two thefts and an attempted theft from Durham University Oriental Museum, robberies at Norwich Castle Museum in Norfolk and Gorringes Auction House in Lewes, and a burglary at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

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‘Operation Griffin’, an investigation led jointly by Cambridgeshire and Durham Constabularies, and supported by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC), was launched in June 2012 to bring those behind the conspiracy to justice.

Two of the 14-strong gang pleaded guilty to the charges in March last year and January this year. Four men - Daniel ‘Turkey’ O’Brien, 45, John ‘Kerry’ O’Brien, 26, Michael Hegarty, 43, and Richard ‘Kerry’ O’Brien Junior, 31, all from Cambridgeshire but with links to Rathkeale in Ireland - were found guilty of conspiracy to steal following an eight-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court in February.

Eight other men, aged between 33 and 68, from Cambridgeshire, London, Southend-on-Sea and Wolverhampton, were found guilty at three previous trials, all at Birmingham Crown Court.

Seven of the convicted men were sentenced yesterday (Monday, April 4) for between four years and six years, eight months.

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The sentences were as follows:

• Danny Flynn, 45, of Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire was jailed for four years.

• Paul Pammen, 49, of Alton Gardens, Southend, Essex, was sentenced to five and a half years.

• Donald Chi Chong Wong, 56, of Clapham Common South Side, London, was jailed for five and a half years.

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• Daniel “Turkey” O’Brien, 45, from Smithy Fen, Cottenham was given six years and eight months.

• Richard “Kerry” O’Brien Junior, 31, of Dale Farm, Oak Lane, Billericay, Essex was sentenced to five and a half years in prison.

• Alan Clarke, 37, of Melbourne Road, Newham, London was jailed for five and a half years.

• John “Cash” O’Brien, 68, of Fifth Avenue, Wolverhampton was given five years and three months.

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Six other members of the gang are expected to be sentenced today (Tuesday, April 5).

A 14th gang member, Robert Gilbert-Smith, 27, of no fixed address pleaded guilty on March 10, 2015 and was sentenced to 15 months in jail on April 27, 2015.

All 14 men were charged in connection with all six incidents.

The six incidents were:

• Durham University Oriental Museum - between November 2011 and February 2012, theft of a rhinoceros libation cup

• Durham University Oriental Museum - January 16, 2012, attempted theft of Chinese artefacts

• Norwich Castle Museum - February 20, 2012, attempted theft of a rhinoceros horn

• Gorringes Auction House in East Sussex - March 16, 2012, robbery

• Durham University Oriental Museum - April 5, 2012, burglary and theft of two Chinese artefacts worth about £2million

• Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge - April 13, 2012, burglary and theft of Jade artefacts worth about £15million.

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