Tyne & Wear

Men jailed for Durham University Oriental Museum raid

Adrian Stanton (left) and Lee Wildman
Image caption The judge told Adrian Stanton, left, and Lee Wildman they had shown "crass ineptitude"

Two men who forgot where they had stashed £2m worth of Chinese artefacts stolen from a Durham University museum have been jailed.

Lee Wildman, 35, and Adrian Stanton, 32, both from Walsall, admitted conspiracy to burgle at Durham Crown Court.

Wildman received a prison sentence of nine years and Stanton was jailed for eight years.

Four others from Walsall were sentenced for assisting the pair.

The raid took place the night before Good Friday last year when the campus was quiet, the court heard.

'Agitated manner'

After chiselling a hole through a wall, Wildman and Stanton picked out two items - a 1769 jade bowl and a porcelain figurine - which were worth up to £2m, Judge Christopher Prince said.

But after hiding the items on wasteland, Wildman, of Remington Road, could not find them when he returned two days later.

He was seen by a witness searching for the items and speaking in an agitated manner on his mobile phone.

Judge Prince told the defendants they had shown "crass ineptitude" in being unable to find their haul.

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

"Thank heavens you could not, because they may have been lost," he said.

Both men had shown no remorse and had told "transparent" lies during a two-day hearing in which they tried to play down their roles in the burglary, the judge said.

"The financial value of artefacts such as these is perhaps the very least important factor," he said.

"These items have got a historical, cultural and artistic value that is quite simply immeasurable."

The artefacts were found following a finger-tip search of the wasteland after Wildman was spotted in the area by a member of the public.

Hotel arrests

Justin Clarke, 31, of Tamar Close, was jailed for 20 months after driving an Audi S3, which had been used in the raid, back to the Midlands.

Fallon Arrowsmith, 20, of Walker Road, who was in a relationship with Stanton, of West Bromwich Street, received a six-month prison sentence, suspended for one year, and must carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Wildman's girlfriend Charmaine Wilkes, 27, of Cornwall Close, received the same sentence. Both women were arrested at a Walsall hotel with the thieves.

Natasha Partridge, of Remmington Place, received a four-month prison sentence, suspended for one year, and must carry out 100 hours of community service.

The 21-year-old's bank card was used to book hotels.

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