Second Theft Of Rare Chinese Artefacts In Two Weeks As Cambridge University Is Targeted In Raid

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Cambridge and Durham Universities have been targeted | PA

A hoard of rare Chinese artefacts has been stolen from Cambridge University, police have confirmed.

Eighteen items including a 14th century Ming jade cup were stolen during a raid at the institution's Fitzwilliam Museum at around 7.30pm on Friday.

Cambridgeshire Police today appealed for anyone with information to help recover the items, which the force described as "very valuable" and of "great cultural significance".

Detective Chief Superintendent Karen Daber, who is leading the investigation, called Operation Tundra, said the force had carried out forensic examinations following the burglary and were examining CCTV footage.

She said: "The items stolen are very valuable and are of great cultural significance so we are absolutely committed to recovering them and bringing those who stole them to justice.

"The 18 items stolen are mostly jade and part of the museum's permanent collection.

"We have a team of detectives working hard to achieve these ends and we are working closely with the Fitzwilliam Museum, which is doing all it can to help our inquiries.

"We are keen to hear from anyone who may have been in or around the Fitzwilliam Museum between 6pm and 8pm and may have heard or seen anything unusual or suspicious.

"While this is an exceptional crime, that we are taking very seriously, it is also worth remembering that this type of offence is extremely rare."

Mrs Daber refused to speculate on whether the robbery was linked to a similar theft which took place recently at Durham University, although she said officers were liaising with Durham police.

A gang coolly chiselled into Durham University's Oriental Museum through an outside wall on 5 April before stealing two Chinese artefacts, which are thought to have been stolen to order.

Police said the Durham raid was almost certainly a well-planned operation, as the gang targeted two separate cabinets containing an 18th century jade bowl and a Dehua porcelain figurine - which have since been retrieved.

Both items are from the Qing Dynasty, China's last imperial dynasty, and their total value is estimated to be worth more than £2 million.

On Wednesday, photographs of Lee Wildman, also known as Jason or Lee Green, 35, and Adrian Stanton, 32, both of Walsall, West Midlands, were released.

Lee Wildman was one of five people from the West Midlands who were arrested and bailed pending further inquiries.

The Fine Art and Antiques division of the Metropolitan Police will assist the Cambridgeshire force with their investigation.

Among the stolen items were six pieces from the Ming dynasty, including a jade 16th century carved buffalo, a carved horse from the 17th century and a green and brown jade carved elephant.

A jade cup and vase which is carved with bronze designs was also stolen along with an opaque jade brush washer.

Eight pieces from the Qing dynasty were taken, and a table screen from the Qianlong period and a jug and vase from the 18th century make up the rest of the stolen artworks.

Police and the museum refused to reveal the monetary value of the stolen pieces.

A spokesman for the Fitzwilliam Museum said: "These works are a highly important part of our collection and their loss is a great blow.

"We are working closely with the police to aid in their recovery.

"A thorough review of our security measures is also under way. We urge anyone with information that could help the inquiry to come forward."

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