Oriental Museum accused must wait to learn their fate

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THE sentencing of six people involved in the theft of valuable Chinese museum artefacts has been adjourned.

Judge John Milford, presiding at Newcastle Crown Court, said he was not satisfied with the account given by two of the accused, Lee Wildman and Adrian Stanton, about the role they played in the theft of treasures worth almost £2million from Durham’s Oriental Museum in April.

Wildman, 35, and Stanton, 32, both of Walsall, West Midlands, had admitted conspiracy to commit burglary together with others at the museum in Old Elvet, on April 5, at an earlier hearing.

But it was on the basis, in both cases, that they were not the intruders in the museum.

Judge Milford told the pair and their barrister that, after reading up reports on the case, he was not prepared to accept their pleas on that basis.

Wildman claimed to have been offered £3,000 and Stanton £1,000 for their part in the robbery, when raiders tunnelled through the wall of the museum and made off with a solid jade bowl and an 18th-century porcelain figurine, both from the Qing Dynasty.

Both were later recovered intact by police after being found in a field in Brandon, near Durham, days after the break-in.

The thieves got into the museum’s Malcolm MacDonald Gallery before escaping.

Museum officials described the objects as “highly significant” examples of the Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty in China, which ruled from 1644 to 1911.

The large green jade bowl, dating from 1769, is from the collection of Sir Charles Hardinge, a British collector of jades and hardstones.

A Chinese poem is written inside.

The thieves also took a Dehua porcelain sculpture, with a cream white glaze, of seven fairies in a boat.

Judge Milford adjourned sentencing for a Newton Hearing, expected to last for two days, in order to establish exactly what role Wildman and Stanton played in the break-in.

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho