Suspects bailed after raids over Durham museum thefts

The jade bowl taken from Durham Oriental Museum in April 2012.
The jade bowl taken from Durham Oriental Museum in April 2012.
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TWENTY people arrested as part of a nationwide operation sparked by the theft of precious artefacts from museums and an auction house have been bailed.

The 18 men and two women were arrested following a series of dawn raids across England and Northern Ireland on Tuesday have all been released until January as inquiries continue,

The investigation was sparked by a break-in to Durham Oriental Museum in April last year, when a jade bowl and a porcelain ornament worth £2million were taken when a hole was smashed in its wall.

They were later recovered from waste land on the outskirts of the city.

Three men and three women were charged and put before Durham Crown Court.

A rhino horn cup was also taken from the venue in December 2011 and remains missing.

Other burglaries happened at the Gorringes Auction House in East Sussex, Norwich Castle Museum and Norfolk and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and also involved Chinese artefacts and items made from rhino horn.

Hundreds of officers from 26 police forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) were involved in the dawn raids.

All of those arrested were held on suspicion of conspiracy to burgle apart from a 54-year-old woman who was arrested in London on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and assisting an offender.

The investigation is in connection with six crimes over a four-month period.