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Chester Cathedral: Greek Lazarus icon thief 'like a magpie'

Vasilijy Apilats room Image copyright Cheshire Police
Image caption Police said Apilats appeared to be obsessed with religious artefacts

A man who stole a cathedral's 19th Century Greek icon had "the instincts of the magpie", a judge has said.

Vasilijy Apilats, 61, of Crewe, stole The Raising of Lazarus painting, which is estimated to be worth £2,500, from Chester Cathedral.

His defence claimed he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following ordeals with gangsters.

Recorder Eric Lamb jailed him for nine months at Chester Crown Court.

Image copyright Cheshire Police
Image caption Vasilijy Apilats' defence said he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder

Apilats, originally from Lativa, denied theft but was found guilty by a jury in November.

The court had been told the icon was taken from a chapel in the cathedral in August 2014 and Apilats had left a cheap Christmas angel in its place.

The painting was found wrapped in a black bin bag at Mr Apilats' home on Edleston Road during a police raid the following month amid a "vast array" of religious artefacts.

Image copyright Andy Gill
Image caption The painting was probably made between 1870 and 1880

Apilats was identified as the suspect when his DNA was recovered from the picture stand which the icon had been attached to.

Sentencing Apilats, Mr Lamb said the haul "looked like the instincts of a magpie".

Sgt Neil Doleman of Cheshire Constabulary said: "Apilats is a man who appears to be obsessed with religious artefacts.

"He selfishly took an icon, which was not only of significant value but was also of huge importance to Chester Cathedral and the public who used it as an aid to pray."

Image caption The icon is worth around £2,500

Peter Moss, representing Apilats, said his client had post-traumatic stress disorder after suffering at the hands of "mafia" type people in Eastern Europe.

Mr Moss said Apilats had a "shopaholic urge".

Chester Crown Court was told the painting was probably made between 1870 and 1880.

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