New developments in Fitzwilliam Museum heist

Loughlin Sweeney - News Reporter 26 April 2012

Cambridgeshire Constabulary have released new information concerning the theft of priceless Chinese jade artefacts from the Fitzwilliam Museum on Friday 13th April.

The theft is now believed to have involved four people, who broke in through the rear of the Museum and found their way to Room 28, the Arts of the Far East permanent exhibition. Despite tripping the silent alarm, the thieves had made off with their booty before the university security arrived on the scene. The alarm was not set up to directly inform the police, who were contacted subsequently.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary have set up a 28-officer taskforce, Operation Tundra, led by Detective Chief Superintendent Karen Daber. They are currently searching for information on a white VW van, which was seen in the vicinity of the Museum on the fateful evening, and later caught on CCTV making a hasty retreat towards the M11. They announced on 25th April that they were expanding the search for the artefacts worldwide, stating, “It is possible the items have already left the country and we have circulated details to police forces internationally.”

The Fitzwilliam Museum is working closely with police to recover the 18 stolen items, which include a fourteenth-century jade vase and two eighteenth-century incense burners. The Museum’s spokesperson had no further comment.

The jade theft is the second high-profile snatch of Chinese artefacts this month; on 5th April, miscreants made off with a horde of treasures from the Durham University Oriental Museum. The Fitzwilliam Museum has refused to speculate on the connection between the two crimes. However, the similarities beg the question: are unscrupulous art moguls casing the country’s museums and criminally contributing to the growing craze for historic Chinese collectibles?

Loughlin Sweeney – News Reporter