‘Irreplaceable’ books worth £2.5m returned to owners after three years
Written by Rother Radio News on 10/11/2020
Two-hundred and forty “irreplaceable” books – including works by Sir Isaac Newton and Galileo – have been returned to their rightful owners three years after they were stolen in a burglary.
They were due to be taken to a specialist auction house in Las Vegas and were discovered buried underground in Romania earlier this year.
But after Met Police detectives travelled to Bucharest to formally identify them last month, they have finally be reunited with their owners.
Four of the 240 titles, which also included works by 18th century Spanish painter Francisco Goya, are still missing and 83 were damaged after they were taken.
Two were ruined beyond repair while others suffered broken spines, water and mould damage from being hidden underground.
One of the owners – a man called Alessandro Riquier from Italy – said: “After three-and-a-half years, finally this terrible story has a very happy ending. I went to Bucharest full of hope but also a little bit scared about the damaged books.
“I was very excited and it was a great joy to handle my books again and to see that apart from one missing, and four books with variable damage, all the books were in good condition.”
Another owner, Natalina Bado, also from Italy, said: “Reviewing and touching our books three years and nine months after the theft was a profound joy.
“Every time we were about to view a book we had many expectations regarding the conditions and when we found our works in good condition it was a great happiness for us, just as it was a deep pain to see some damaged books, a feeling partly shared also from all of you and the library staff.”
Met Police officers worked for three years with the Romanian National Police, the Italian Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, Europol and Eurojust to track down the stolen goods – deemed to be irreplaceable and of international importance.
They were transported to Romania by an organised crime network who were all Romanian nationals.
Twelve men were jailed at Kingston Crown Court in London in October for commissioning the burglaries at commercial premises across the UK.
The books that are still missing are:
- Attavante Degli Attavanti, Illuminated Manuscript on Vellum – Book of Hours (Use of Rome) – Cicle of Attavante Degli Attavanti, published in north Italy in 1480, valued at around £24,000
- Vues Du Honan – Chemin de Fer, by ‘China’ – a photo album of pictures taken in China, published in 1920, valued at around £1,500
- A collection of nature pressed butterflies by NAWA, valued at around £4,000
- La Saggia Pazzia – by Antonio Maria Spelta, published between 1606 and 1607, valued at around £1,500
Anyone with information about their whereabouts should call police on 101 quoting Cad 4340/05Nov20 or by contacting Crimestoppers anonymously via 0800 555 111.
© Sky News 2020