Saturday 24 June 2017

Judge jails more of 'Rathkeale Rovers' heist gang

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Claire Hayhurst

More members of the notorious 'Rathkeale Rovers' crime gang have been jailed over a €71m plot to "plunder" British museums of rhino horn and other priceless Chinese artefacts.

The group, named because of their links to the Co Limerick town, targeted high-value objects in a string of break-ins, including Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum and twice at Durham's Oriental Museum in 2012.

Judge Murray Creed heard that although the items stolen in Durham and Cambridge were valued at up to £18m, detectives believe they might have fetched more than three times that figure on the booming Chinese auction market.

In all, 13 men have been sentenced over two days, after three trials which concluded with the gang and its associates convicted of wide-ranging criminal conspiracy to steal, with connections to Ireland, Europe and China.

John "Kerry" O'Brien, aged 26, of Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire - but also of Rathkeale, Co Limerick - was said by the judge to have had a central role in the conspiracy. He was jailed for six-and-a-half years.

Control

Terrence McNamara, of Marquis Street in Belfast, was told he would be jailed for four years. Addressing 43-year-old Michael Hegarty, also of Orchard Drive in Cottenham, and Rathkeale, he said: "I believe you were controlling him (McNamara) in relation to events at Durham Museum in the first instance." Hegarty was jailed for six-and-a-half years.

He sentenced 47-year-old Richard Sheridan, of Water Lane in Smithy Fen, and Patrick Clarke, aged 34, of Melbourne Road, Newham, London, to five-and-a-half years apiece for their part. Sheridan is a former spokesman for the Dale Farm travellers site in Essex

Ashley Dad, aged 35, of Crowther Road in Wolverhampton, who did not appear at court, was jailed for five years and three months.

The judge said the conspiracy had been centred on the family seat in Rathkeale, telling the defendants: "At the heart of this enterprise was a family - a number of you are members of the O'Brien family." He added: "Of 14 original conspirators, seven were connected with that home, seven were associates, like Terrence McNamara, while others were recruited in to find thieves."

Robert Gilbert Smith, formerly of Hockenden Lane in Kent was jailed for his part in the crime last year.

Irish Independent

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