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 Fourteen men convicted of museum plot


​AN ORGANISED crime gang who masterminded a series of raids on museums and auction houses across the UK have been convicted.
Between November 2011 and April 2012, Chinese artefacts and rhinoceros horns worth millions of pounds were targeted in a number of incidents.
These comprised two thefts and an attempted theft from Durham University Oriental Museum (pictured), a robbery at Norwich Castle Museum in Norfolk, another robbery at Gorringes Auction House in East Sussex and a burglary at Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
Investigations were launched by local police forces and a number of people convicted for their parts in carrying out the thefts.
However, it soon became apparent that an organised crime group was planning and commissioning the jobs.
‘Operation Griffin’, an investigation led by Durham Constabulary and Cambridgeshire Police and supported by the National Crime Agency and the National Police Chief’s Council, was therefore launched in June 2012 to bring those behind the conspiracy to justice.
Daniel ‘Turkey’ O’Brien, 45; John ‘Kerry’ O’Brien, 26; Michael Hegarty, 43; and Richard ‘Kerry’ O’Brien Junior, 31, all from Cambridgeshire but with links to Rathkeale, Ireland, were found guilty today, Monday February 29th of conspiracy to steal, following a lengthy trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

Eight other men, aged between 33 and 68, from Cambridgeshire, London, Southend-on-Sea and Wolverhampton, were found guilty at three previous trials, all at Birmingham Crown Court. Two others, one aged 28 from Kent, and the other aged 46 from Belfast, pleaded guilty to the charges in March last year and January this year.

All 14 men were charged in connection with all the incidents.

Senior Investigating Officer for the operation, Detective Superintendent Adrian Green from Durham Constabulary, said: “I am extremely pleased with the verdicts passed today and over the previous year.
“Because of the variations which can be given by auction houses the total value of the items targeted comes to anywhere between £18m and £57m. This illustrates just how massively profitable this trade was viewed by the gang.

“All the hard work put in by everyone involved has paid off. Firstly, those that carried out the burglaries were caught and convicted by local officers.

“What followed was a very long and complex investigation to capture and bring to justice those who commissioned and planned the jobs.

“I hope this sends out a message that nobody is untouchable.”

Sentencing on those convicted today will be carried out on a day to be decided.

Chief Constable Mick Creedon, the national policing lead for organised crime said:
"This complex and lengthy operation resulted from initial work done by the Durham and Cambridgeshire forces who uncovered the offending of a sophisticated criminal network responsible for a series of high value offences across the country."
UPDATE 1/3/16 - For those of you who may not have seen the tv coverage last night, here's a report from Sky News on the 'guilty' verdicts on all 14 men who plotted to steal Chinese artefacts and other valuables from museums and auction houses.
The report features an interview with Det Supt Adrian Green.