Seven London suspects bailed after museum theft raids

Police raiding Smithy Fen travellers' site in Cambridgeshire
Image caption Officers carried out 40 raids in England and Northern Ireland

Police investigating thefts of "priceless items" from museums and auction houses in England have bailed seven of the 20 people they arrested.

Officers from 26 forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) took part in dawn raids on Tuesday.

Initially 19 arrests were made, with a further arrest in London later. Seven people from London have been bailed.

Thirteen from Cambridgeshire, Essex, London, Nottingham, Sussex, Walsall and Northern Ireland remain in custody.

The 40 co-ordinated police raids were made in connection with six burglaries involving the theft of Chinese artefacts and a rhinoceros horn, over a four-month period in 2012.

Property seized

Three happened at Durham University's Oriental Museum, one at Gorringes Auction House in East Sussex and one each at Norwich Castle Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in April last year.

Several high-value items are still missing, police said.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionHundreds of officers were involved in the raids early on Tuesday

So far, eight people have been convicted and jailed for a total of more than 40 years for their roles in the break-ins.

All those arrested on Tuesday were detained on suspicion of conspiracy to commit burglary, apart from a 54-year-old woman who was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and assisting an offender.

She has been released on bail together with another woman, aged 28, and five men, aged 20, 22, 31, 35 and 54.

A 53-year-old man arrested by the Metropolitan Police remains in custody, as do 12 other men aged between 24 and 67.

During the raids officers seized cars, cash, suspected stolen property and documents.

They have not yet been able to say whether any items still missing after the museum thefts last year were found.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites