Men jailed after Chinese museum thefts

The hole in the wall where the thieves broke through Credit: PA Wire

Two men who stole Chinese artefacts worth two million pounds have been jailed for their part in a raid on a Durham museum.

Walsall duo Lee Wilman, 35, and Adrian Stanton, 33 were sentenced to nine and eight years respectively after the burglary at the Oriental Museum at Durham University on Elvet Hill Road.

A hole was made in the side of the museum before the precious artefacts were taken. Police suspect the 18th century bowl and porcelain figurine from the Chinese Qing dynasty, were stolen to order.

The men had even visited the museum the week before and were caught on CCTV trying the locks on the cabinets.

But the meticulously planned raid turned into a farce when Wildman hid the items on wasteland in Browney, south west of Durham. When he went back for the items he couldn't find them. The judge said it was an act of "crass ineptitude."

Police later recovered the items.

Four others were also sentenced, including Justin Clarke, 30 from Walsall. He was given a 20 month sentence for helping the men. The three girlfriends of the men - Fallon Arrowsmith, Charmaine Wilkes, and Natasha Partridge - were handed suspended sentences for booking hotels for Wildman and Stanton so they couldn't be detected by police.

The judge said it was "a miracle" that the artefacts weren't damaged. They will now go back on display in a few months time.

See Frances Read's full report here.