Rhino horn robbers stopped by Norwich Castle Museum staff

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Media captionRhino horn fetches more than �50,000 a kilo on the black market

A gang of thieves has been stopped from stealing a valuable rhino's horn from a Norfolk museum.

Four men entered Norwich Castle Museum at 12:25 GMT on Monday and forced open a display case containing the head.

The men grabbed the head and tried to escape, but were disturbed by museum staff who recovered it from them.

On the black market, rhino horns can sell for about £50,000 per kilogram, making them as valuable or more valuable than gold or cocaine.

The attempted Norwich Castle Museum robbery follows a number of rhino horn thefts from museums in the UK in the past 12 months.

Vanessa Trevelyan, director of Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, said: "This is something that has been happening in museums throughout the country.

"Rhino horns are extremely valuable. We are the first museum, I believe, to have foiled such an attack.

'Bravely tackled'

"The men paid to come into the museum and, presumably when the gallery was quiet, jemmied open the door to the case where the rhino head was sitting and attempted to leave carrying the rhino head.

"They were foiled by two members of my staff who very bravely tackled them causing the men to run off."

Rhino horns have become highly prized due to the widespread belief that when powdered down they have great medicinal powers.

Image caption Thieves attempted the robbery during museum visiting hours on Monday afternoon

In some cultures they are also used for the hilt on ceremonial daggers.

Ms Trevelyan added: "Being a castle and one-time prison our perimeter security is very good.

"If they'd cased the joint they would have realised it wasn't possible to break in during the night and would have to do this daring attack during the day.

"People are feeling in one sense quite exhilarated to have been able to stop this happening, but now quite trembly as it's not the sort of thing we expect."

Police said the men were thought to have left the scene in a dark hatchback car parked outside the castle being driven by a fifth person.

The museum said it would replace the horn with a replica, so it would no longer be a target for thieves, before returning it to public display.

Police are appealing for witnesses.

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