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Two Newham men convicted for roles in £57m museum theft of Chinese artefacts

PUBLISHED: 12:14 05 April 2016 | UPDATED: 13:12 05 April 2016

(top l-r): Robert Gilbert-Smith, Ashley Dad, John O'Brien and Terence McNamara; (bottom l-r) Daniel Flynn, John O'Brien, Michael Hegarty and Alan Clarke

(top l-r): Robert Gilbert-Smith, Ashley Dad, John O'Brien and Terence McNamara; (bottom l-r) Daniel Flynn, John O'Brien, Michael Hegarty and Alan Clarke

Two Newham men have been found guilty of being part of a museum criminal gang who stole artefacts worth up to £57m.

(top l-r) Paul Pammen, Donald Chi Chong Wong and Richard Sheridan; (bottom l-r) Richard O'Brien Jnr, Patrick Clarke and Daniel O'Brien(top l-r) Paul Pammen, Donald Chi Chong Wong and Richard Sheridan; (bottom l-r) Richard O'Brien Jnr, Patrick Clarke and Daniel O'Brien

Alan Clarke, 37, of Melbourne Road, was said to have headed the 14-strong gang’s “disposal team” responsible for the high-value thefts of rhino horn and Chinese jade from museums in Durham, Cambridge, Norwich and Lewes, East Sussex.

He was convicted of conspiracy to burgle and sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison at Birmingham Crown Court.

Patrick Clarke, 34, also of Melbourne Road, Newham, is due to be sentenced today.

Seven members of the organised criminal gang, dubbed the Rathkeale Rovers because of their links to the Irish town, have been jailed for up to six years and eight months, with six of gang members due to be sentenced later today.

Those jailed were found guilty by jury. Judge Murray Creed, who presided over the hearings, called the burglaries “an extremely sophisticated conspiracy”.

The gang members, whose connections stretched to Ireland, Europe and China, organised two thefts at Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum and Durham’s Oriental Musuem in 2012.

They stole exhibits worth up to £18 million, although detectives believe the price could have been triple that on the “booming” Chinese auction market.

The men also masterminded a bungled attempted theft at Gorringes Auction House in Lewes. They were sentenced as follows:

Daniel “Turkey” O’Brien, 45, of Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire was jailed for six years and eight months.

Donald Wong, 56, of Clapham Common South Side, London, was sentenced to five-and-a half-years.

Daniel Flynn, 45, of Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire was jailed for four years.

Paul Pammen, 49, of Alton Gardens, Southend-on-Sea was given five-and-a-half years in jail.

John “Cash” O’Brien, 68, of Fifth Avenue, Wolverhampton was jailed for five years and three months.

Richard “Kerry” O’Brien Junior, 31, of Cambridgeshire – also of Rathkeale in the Irish Republic – was sentenced to five and a half years in prison.

Robert Gilbert-Smith, 27, of no fixed address had already admitted his part in the conspiracy and was jailed for his part in the crime last year.


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