Two hundred “culturally significant” books – including works by Sir Isaac Newton and astronomer Galileo – that were stolen in a Mission: Impossible-style raid in west London have been found buried underground in Romania.
The books, worth more than £2.5m, were taken in a “highly sophisticated” burglary at a warehouse in Feltham in January 2017, the Metropolitan Police said.
Thieves broke in by cutting holes in the roof of the warehouse and then abseiled down, avoiding motion sensor alarms.
February 2017: Abseiling raiders steal rare books
The books – which were due to be flown to a specialist auction in Las Vegas – were stolen in 16 large bags, with the raiders fleeing the warehouse through the roof.
Speaking to Sky News shortly after the raid, book dealer Alessandro Meda Riquier said the stolen works included his 1566 second edition of Nicolaus Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, which was reportedly worth around £215,000 and was described as the “jewel” in the haul.
He said he had also lost important books by Galileo and very rare editions of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
An international police operation was launched to recover the “irreplaceable” items and on Wednesday they were discovered buried underground at a rural property in Neamt, Romania.
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Detective Inspector Andy Durham said the recovery was “a perfect end” to a police operation involving officers in London, Romania and Italy.
“These books are extremely valuable, but more importantly they are irreplaceable and are of great importance to international cultural heritage,” he added.
Image: The stolen books are worth more than £2.5m. Pic: Met Police
The Met Police said it had identified suspects who were part of a Romanian organised crime group which was responsible for high-value warehouse burglaries across the UK.
The group is linked to several prominent Romanian crime families called the Clamparu, which has a history of complex high-value thefts but has mainly avoided prosecution by offending outside Romania.
Police found evidence of another 11 offences committed in the UK, in which a further £2m worth of property was stolen – with the offenders generally using the same method of entering through the roof.
Image: The books were discovered buried underground at a rural property in Neamt, Romania. Pic: Met Police
As part of the investigation, there were coordinated arrests and searches of 45 properties across the UK, Romania and Italy in June 2019.
Thirteen people were charged with conspiring to commit burglaries and acquire criminal property between December 2016 and April 2019.
Twelve people have pleaded guilty and are due to sentenced next week, the Met Police said.
A thirteenth defendant is due to face trial in March.
Source : Sky News