Tyne & Wear

Durham Oriental Museum artefact theft: a 'complete farce'

Adrian Stanton (left) and Lee Wildman
Image caption Adrian Stanton, left, and Lee Wildman will be sentenced on Friday

The theft of £1.8m worth of Chinese artefacts from a Durham museum was a "complete farce", a court has heard.

An 18th Century jade bowl and a Dehua porcelain figurine were stolen during the raid at Durham University's Oriental Museum in April.

Lee Wildman, 35, and Adrian Stanton, 32, both from Walsall, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle.

The pair are due to be sentenced for their part in the raid at Durham Crown Court later.

Judge Christopher Prince said the plan was not "sophisticated" and had been reduced to a "complete farce".

The court heard how the ornaments were hidden on waste land in the Browney Lane area of Durham after the break-in, "possibly in a panic", and could later not be found.

A witness spotted Wildman two days later searching the waste land, speaking on his phone and "seeming agitated", the court heard.

'Cultural importance'

Judge Prince said: "This is not an offence that can be described as sophisticated.

"Although this burglary was carried out according to a prepared plan, there were elements towards the end of it that reduced the plan to complete farce."

Image caption A jade water bowl from the Qing Dynasty was taken but later recovered

In court, the pair admitted only a small part in the plan, claiming they were recruited to try to steal the ornaments while the museum was open, then later providing a car for an unnamed gang.

The bowl and figurine were later found on the waste land by a member of the public.

The judge said: "Lawyers with many years experience have not seen a case where thieves have hidden property where they just could not find it afterwards, let alone property of this cultural importance and enormous value."

Both men will be sentenced later along with four others charged in connection with the raid.

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