Museum gang jailed for £57m Chinese art and rhino thefts

Artefacts stolen from the Fitzwilliam Museum Image copyright Fitzwilliam Museum
Image caption Chinese artefacts worth up to £15m were stolen from Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum in April 2012

Seven members of an organised crime gang have been jailed for their roles in stealing artefacts worth up to £57m from museums and an auction house.

Items including Chinese jade and rhino horn were stolen in Cambridge, Durham, Norwich and Lewes, East Sussex.

The men, from Cambridgeshire, Essex, London and the West Midlands were convicted of conspiracy to burgle between November 2011 and April 2012.

They were jailed 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.
  • 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.
Image copyright Durham Police
Image caption (top, l-r) Richard Sheridan, Michael Hegarty, Richard O'Brien Jnr, John O'Brien, Daniel O'Brien, Donald Chi Chong Wong, Alan Clarke; (bottom, l-r) Patrick Clarke, John O'Brien, Daniel Flynn, Ashley Dad, Paul Pammen, Robert Gilbert-Smith, Terence McNamara

Those jailed were found guilty by jury after a series of trials at Birmingham Crown Court.

They were part of a 14-strong gang involved in organising two thefts and an attempted theft at Durham University Oriental Museum as well as further incidents at Gorringes Auction House in Lewes, Norwich Castle Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

Jurors heard exhibits stolen in Durham and Cambridge were valued at about £17m but detectives believed they could have fetched up to £57m ($79m) on the "booming" Chinese auction market.

Six other members of the gang are expected to be sentenced on Tuesday.

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

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