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Natural History Museum thief ordered to pay thousands

image captionEdwin Rist stole the skins to finance his studies and improve his lifestyle

A student who stole 299 rare bird skins from a Hertfordshire museum had been ordered to pay £125,150 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Edwin Rist, 22, of High Street, Willesden Green, London, burgled the Natural History Museum, Tring in 2009.

In April Rist, a US citizen, was given a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and a supervision order for 12 months.

The confiscation order was made at St Albans Crown Court on Friday.

He was ordered to pay back the money after also pleading guilty to money laundering offences.

The sum of £125,150 is the amount he is estimated to have later made by selling the skins, stolen from a private collections area in the museum, through outlets such as eBay.

Det Sgt Joe Quinlivan, from Hertfordshire Police's economic crime unit, said: "This is a very positive result for us and sends a strong message that making money through crime never pays."

Rist has £13,371.98 available to pay and has six months to pay it.

If he does not do so, he will have to serve his 12-month prison sentence.

Should he come into more money at a later date, police will be seeking this from him up to the total outstanding figure.

image captionThe museum said that specific birds had been targeted in the break-in

Rist, who was studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, planned to steal the bird skins in 2008, having visited the museum under false pretences.

He arranged a visit to photograph a sample of bird skins in the collection on behalf of a colleague, before returning to break in to the premises in June 2009.

Rist took 299 skins, the money from which he was hoping to put towards his studies, buy a new flute and improve his lifestyle.

Police were alerted when a potential buyer became suspicious after being offered the skins for sale.

Rist was arrested on 12 November last year at his student accommodation in north London, where he had returned to study after the summer break.

To date, 191 intact birds have been recovered but only 101 still retain their labels, which are critical scientifically.

More on this story

  • Musician sentenced for rare bird skins theft

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