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Police have carried out dozens of early morning raids in connection with a string of high profile museum robberies.
Millions of pounds worth of Chinese artefacts were stolen from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and a rhino horn was stolen from the Norwich Castle Museum last year.
Today 26 forces across the country and the Serious Organised Crime Agency carried out a string of raids, targeting suspected gang members. Matthew Hudson reports.
William Brown is a national security advisor for the Arts Council and says we must protect artefacts or they will be lost forever.
Police have carried out dozens of raids across the country, in connection with a series of museum robberies, which netted criminals millions of pounds worth of antiques.
The robberies investigated, included those last year at the Castle Museum in Norwich and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has released this statement about the early morning arrests in connection with last years museum thefts
Tim Knox, Director said, "This recent action is a major step forward for all the institutions involved in the investigation.
We have been impressed with the support we have received from Cambridgeshire Police so far and would like to thank all the officers involved locally and nationally.
19 people have been arrested across the UK as part of a combined operation following a serious of raids a museums, including the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and Norwich Castle Museum.
17 men and 2 women are currently in custody following early morning raids across the UK.
Four men, aged 24, 41, 44 and 56 were arrested in Cambridgeshire.
Two men, aged 28 and 46 were arrested in Essex.
Five men aged 20, 31,35, 53 and 54 and two women aged, 28 and 54 were arrested in London.
A 60 -year-old man was arrested in Sussex, a 32 year-old man was arrested in the West Midlands and a 67-year-old man in Nottingham.
Three men have also been arrested in Northern Ireland.
All of those arrested are being held on suspicion of conspiracy to burgle, apart from the 54-year-old woman who was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.
The arrests are in connection with six crimes which took place last year where Chinese artefacts and a rhino horn were stolen.
Police forces across the country are carrying out searches in different locations after a series of robberies at museums, including the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge and Norwich Castle.
Officers from 26 police forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency are involved.
The national operation follows six crimes which took place over four months last year with warrants being issued in Cambridgeshire, Essex, London, Sussex, the West Midlands and Northern Ireland.
Chinese artefacts and a rhinoceros horn were stolen during the robberies.
So far there have been arrests in the West Midlands, with a man in his thirties being arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit burglary.
Police say much of the stolen material has been recovered, but several valuable items are still missing.
So far 8 people have been convicted and jailed for their roles in the break-ins, including the raid at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.