A SOUTH Yorkshire man has been arrested after police found stolen antiques worth millions of pounds in a lock-up in the county.
The 68-year-old, from Tankersley, was arrested along with a 44-year-old man from Leeds after a year-long investigation into the theft of £5 million of antiques stolen from stately homes in Ripon, Northallerton and Sussex.
Police said 14 antiques of ‘significant, cultural and historic value’ were discovered in raids on two lock-ups in South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire.
Among the antiques recovered was a George III rosewood Chippendale table of ‘worldwide significance’, stolen from Newby Hall, Ripon, in 2009.
Also recovered in the raids in the early hours of last Thursday was a pair of Louis XVI ormolu and Sevres bleu vases, with an insurance value of £950,000.
They were taken from Firle Place, Sussex, in July 2009 along with a Meissen statue, The Indiscreet Harlequin, and a rare Sevres Hollandois Nouveau vase of 1761, each valued at £180,000.
Another of the recovered antiques include an embellished bracket clock made by Daniel Delander of London around 1710, which is believed to have been stole from Northallerton in February 2009.
Det Supt Steve Waite said: “This is an absolutely fantastic case and a great result for both the officers involved and the stately homes that have been affected by these thefts.
“We are so pleased and proud to have recovered these high value antiques which have been described as true pieces of British heritage.
“We will now begin the formal process of identification and will eventually be in a position to reunite the pieces with their owners.
“For now they remain under lock and key in a controlled environment so as to preserve them.
“Only a couple of items have suffered minor damage in the ordeal but this just goes to show that those involved in the thefts were not in it for their love of antiques.
“In fact, recent trends indicate that these types of high-value items are actually being used by organised crime groups as currency or collateral in relation to serious criminality, often involving drugs.”
More than 30 police officers worked on the investigation for a year.
The Yorkshire and Humber Regional Intelligence and Special Operations Units received the initial intelligence and carried out lengthy surveillance until they identified a number of suspects connected to the thefts and the whereabouts of the items.