Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Johnson Clan Scapegoats for Every Art Theft on Record !! Update !



























Jailed: Stately home gang 'who carried out Britain's biggest burglary' in £80m crime spree

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1042133/Jailed-Stately-home-gang-carried-Britains-biggest-burglary-80m-crime-spree.html

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 2:09 PM on 06th August 2008

Five members of a gang behind a string of raids on stately homes - including Britain's biggest ever burglary - have been jailed for up to 11 years each.

The 'organised and ruthless' group, all part of the same notorious traveller family, stole priceless antiques which experts estimate could be worth more than £80 million.

A court heard that the gang targeted a number of wealthy homes across Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Worcestershire where they knew there would be 'rich pickings' during a year-long spree.

The men would stake out the country mansions, sometimes for weeks, pinpointing the best means of entry and escape.

Then they would strike - breaking in wearing balaclavas, scouring rooms and escaping in stolen cars within minutes while leaving little or no trace.

Their targets included the Wiltshire mansion of property tycoon Harry Hyams, where they stole property worth millions in a raid described later as the UK's biggest ever private house burglary.
Other victims included Formula One motor racing advertising tycoon Paddy McNally and Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire Sir Philip Wroughton.

Those behind the raids were part of the Johnson family - an organised criminal gang who detectives say have plagued the South of England for 20 years.

Richard 'Chad' Johnson, 33, and Daniel O'Loughlin, 32, were both jailed for 11 years, Michael Nicholls, 29, was given 10 years, Albi Johnson, 25, was jailed for nine years and 54-year-old Ricky Johnson was given eight years.

They were all found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary between April 8, 2005 and October 13, 2006 following a month-long trial at Reading Crown Court.

They were sentenced in January but the case can be reported for the first time today following the conclusion of other cases against the family.

Ricky Johnson is the father of Chad and Albi and O'Loughlin is his nephew. Nicholls was the partner of his daughter, Faye. The family were based at a static caravan park in Evesham, Worcestershire, where they plotted the high-value raids.

A jury heard that some properties were burgled while the householders were inside and on one occasion two victims sat in their kitchen completely unaware the raid was taking place.

Paul Reid, prosecuting, said they were an "extensive and highly organised gang" who were "ruthless in their intention to acquire high-value property" from country houses.

They hit the home of Mr Hyams - Ramsbury Manor near Marlborough in Wiltshire - in February 2006.

Mr Reid said: "This has been described as the most valuable domestic burglary ever committed in this country. The collection is described as priceless.

"There is a difficulty in putting a value on antiques and antiquities - some of them very precious and very rare - but it is tens of millions of pounds."

When police arrested the gang, they estimated the haul was worth £30 million. Sources in the art world say the figure is closer to £80 million.

Two months after the Ramsbury raid, detectives found an Aladdin's cave of treasures in an underground bunker at a field owned by an associate of the Johnsons near Stratford-upon-Avon.
Inside were a number of black bins containing straw and numerous pieces of porcelain stolen from the Hyams estate - about a third of the total haul. Some of the priceless antiques had been damaged.

Among other targets were Warneford Place, the former home of James Bond author Ian Fleming, set in 1,000 acres in Sevenhampton near Swindon and owned by Mr McNally, who once dated the Duchess of York.

Sir Philip Wroughton and his wife had items worth £100,000 stolen when the gang burgled their country home in Chaddleworth, Berkshire, twice in 12 months.

Lord and Lady Sandys lost a £1,000 carriage clock when their home, Ombersley Court in Droitwich, Worcestershire, was targeted.

Antiques worth £26,000 were taken from Ramsbury Hill House in Marlborough while the owners were watching TV in their kitchen, unaware their home was being burgled.

During a raid on Stanton Harcourt Manor, a 14th century country home in Witney, Oxfordshire, owned by the Gascoigne family, Albi Johnson leapt from a first-floor window to escape when challenged, breaking both legs in the process.

He was admitted to hospital in Cheltenham within 45 minutes of the burglary and claimed to officers that he had fallen off his brother's garage roof.

Up to £50,000 worth of antiques, jewellery and porcelain had been taken.

Shops were also targeted and in one night the gang stole a £140,000 haul of expensive TVs, Waterford crystal, Royal Doulton china and kitchenware from three stores in Worcestershire.

Ricky Johnson, Chad Johnson and O'Loughlin also stood trial for conspiracy to burgle another country home, Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, where a masked gang stole £5 million worth of rare snuff boxes in 2003.

The trial collapsed after the judge ruled that certain evidence could not be included and a prosecution challenge to that ruling failed in the High Court.

Detectives from five police forces took part in a huge investigation, codenamed Operation Haul, to nail the Johnsons, who they said were "forensically aware" and adept at covering their tracks.

The gang all had a string of previous convictions for offences including burglary, deception, handling stolen goods and stealing metal.

The family's reputation was such that they even had a BBC documentary called Summer With The Johnsons made about them and their antics.

Chad Johnson was previously jailed for marrying an heiress twice his age, stealing her £250,000 inheritance and leaving her bankrupt.

Judge Christopher Critchlow, sentencing the gang for the country house raids, told them the way they had mocked police was "indicative of your attitude to the law".

He said: "Cases of this gravity must attract heavy sentences because of the deliberate criminality, organisation and sophistication of their planning and the effect on the occupants.

"This must be one of the most serious examples of conspiracy to burgle ever to come before the court, considering the amounts involved.

"Little of the property has been recovered and is no doubt well hidden in the countryside or passed on for disposal.

"You have no respect for people's property or the law so I have no alternative but to impose severe sentences."

'Ruthless' Johnson Gang jailed for string of stately home raids
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Five members of a gang behind a string of raids on stately homes - including Britain's biggest ever burglary - have been jailed for up to 11 years each, it can be reported today.

The "organised and ruthless" group, all part of the same notorious traveller family, stole priceless antiques which experts estimate could be worth more than £80 million.

A court heard that the gang targeted a number of wealthy homes across Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Worcestershire where they knew there would be "rich pickings" during a year-long spree.

The men would stake out the country mansions, sometimes for weeks, pinpointing the best means of entry and escape.

Then they would strike - breaking in wearing balaclavas, scouring rooms and escaping in stolen cars within minutes while leaving little or no trace.

Their targets included the Wiltshire mansion of property tycoon Harry Hyams, where they stole property worth millions in a raid described later as the UK's biggest ever private house burglary.

Other victims included Formula One motor racing advertising tycoon Paddy McNally and Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire Sir Philip Wroughton.

Those behind the raids were part of the Johnson family - an organised criminal gang who detectives say have plagued the South of England for 20 years.

Richard "Chad" Johnson, 33, and Daniel O'Loughlin, 32, were both jailed for 11 years, Michael Nicholls, 29, was given 10 years, Albi Johnson, 25, was jailed for nine years and 54-year-old Ricky Johnson was given eight years.

They were all found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary between April 8, 2005 and October 13, 2006 following a month-long trial at Reading Crown Court.

They were sentenced in January but the case can be reported for the first time today following the conclusion of other cases against the family.

Ricky Johnson is the father of Chad and Albi and O'Loughlin is his nephew. Nicholls was the partner of his daughter, Faye. The family were based at a static caravan park in Evesham, Worcestershire, where they plotted the high-value raids.

A jury heard that some properties were burgled while the householders were inside and on one occasion two victims sat in their kitchen completely unaware the raid was taking place.

Paul Reid, prosecuting, said they were an "extensive and highly organised gang" who were "ruthless in their intention to acquire high-value property" from country houses.

They hit the home of Mr Hyams - Ramsbury Manor near Marlborough in Wiltshire - in February 2006.

Mr Reid said: "This has been described as the most valuable domestic burglary ever committed in this country. The collection is described as priceless.

"There is a difficulty in putting a value on antiques and antiquities - some of them very precious and very rare - but it is tens of millions of pounds."

When police arrested the gang, they estimated the haul was worth £30 million. Sources in the art world say the figure is closer to £80 million.

Two months after the Ramsbury raid, detectives found an Aladdin's cave of treasures in an underground bunker at a field owned by an associate of the Johnsons near Stratford-upon-Avon.

Inside were a number of black bins containing straw and numerous pieces of porcelain stolen from the Hyams estate - about a third of the total haul. Some of the priceless antiques had been damaged.

Among other targets were Warneford Place, the former home of James Bond author Ian Fleming, set in 1,000 acres in Sevenhampton near Swindon and owned by Mr McNally, who once dated the Duchess of York.

Sir Philip Wroughton and his wife had items worth £100,000 stolen when the gang burgled their country home in Chaddleworth, Berkshire, twice in 12 months.

Lord and Lady Sandys lost a £1,000 carriage clock when their home, Ombersley Court in Droitwich, Worcestershire, was targeted.

Antiques worth £26,000 were taken from Ramsbury Hill House in Marlborough while the owners were watching TV in their kitchen, unaware their home was being burgled.

During a raid on Stanton Harcourt Manor, a 14th century country home in Witney, Oxfordshire, owned by the Gascoigne family, Albi Johnson leapt from a first-floor window to escape when challenged, breaking both legs in the process.

He was admitted to hospital in Cheltenham within 45 minutes of the burglary and claimed to officers that he had fallen off his brother's garage roof.

Up to £50,000 worth of antiques, jewellery and porcelain had been taken.

Shops were also targeted and in one night the gang stole a £140,000 haul of expensive TVs, Waterford crystal, Royal Doulton china and kitchenware from three stores in Worcestershire.

Ricky Johnson, Chad Johnson and O'Loughlin also stood trial for conspiracy to burgle another country home, Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, where a masked gang stole £5 million worth of rare snuff boxes in 2003.

The trial collapsed after the judge ruled that certain evidence could not be included and a prosecution challenge to that ruling failed in the High Court.

Detectives from five police forces took part in a huge investigation, codenamed Operation Haul, to nail the Johnsons, who they said were "forensically aware" and adept at covering their tracks.

The gang all had a string of previous convictions for offences including burglary, deception, handling stolen goods and stealing metal.

The family's reputation was such that they even had a BBC documentary called Summer With The Johnsons made about them and their antics.

Chad Johnson was previously jailed for marrying an heiress twice his age, stealing her £250,000 inheritance and leaving her bankrupt.

Judge Christopher Critchlow, sentencing the gang for the country house raids, told them the way they had mocked police was "indicative of your attitude to the law".

He said: "Cases of this gravity must attract heavy sentences because of the deliberate criminality, organisation and sophistication of their planning and the effect on the occupants.

"This must be one of the most serious examples of conspiracy to burgle ever to come before the court, considering the amounts involved.

"Little of the property has been recovered and is no doubt well hidden in the countryside or passed on for disposal.

"You have no respect for people's property or the law so I have no alternative but to impose severe sentences."

An order reporting the banning the case was lifted today after O'Loughlin pleaded guilty to a burglary in which a cash dispenser containing nearly £55,000 was ripped from the wall of a Co-op store in Stanford-in-the-Vale, Oxfordshire, on New Year's Day 2006.

A further charge of conspiracy to steal involving a number of similar raids on cash machines across the Thames Valley was ordered to be left on file.

O'Loughlin was given a 66-month sentence for the burglary by Judge Critchlow sitting at Guildford Crown Court to run concurrently with the jail term for the country house raids.
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Art Hostage comments:
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There are two sides to this story.
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Much more to come.................................................
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Update:
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Head of the Johnson Clan Alan "Jimmy" Johnson is about to be released from jail, if not already.
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Straight to the Dorchester hotel London to celebrate his freedom, before heading to the Mansion House to declare:
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"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

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