Gang guilty of £57m plot to steal rhino horn and artefacts
FOURTEEN men linked to a Co Limerick crime gang have been convicted of plotting to steal rhino horn and Chinese artefacts worth up to £57 million in a series of museum and auction house raids in England.
A jury yesterday convicted four of the gang's "generals" who helped to plan and oversee a string of offences, including break-ins at Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum and Durham's Oriental Museum in 2012.
John "Kerry" O'Brien Junior (26), his brother Richard "Kerry" O'Brien (31), their uncle Daniel "Turkey" O'Brien and Michael Hegarty were found guilty after a trial which could not be reported because of similar offences committed by travelling criminals dubbed the "Rathkeale Rovers".
The two-month trial at Birmingham Crown Court heard that 10 other men had previously been convicted for their parts in the conspiracy, which included a bungled attempt to steal a rhino head from Norwich Castle Museum in February 2012.
Although jurors heard that exhibits stolen in Durham and Cambridge were valued at around £17m, detectives believe they may have fetched up to £57m on the Chinese auction market.
At least eight of the men convicted have family or business links to the village of Rathkeale in Co Limerick.
The trial of Richard O'Brien, of Dale Farm, Oak Lane, Billericay, and John O'Brien, Daniel O'Brien, and 43-year-old Hegarty - all of Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire - was told that a computer used to make incriminating internet searches was found at a house in the village.
Terence McNamara (46), of Marquis Street, Belfast - who liaised with a thief sent into Durham's Oriental Museum to steal a Ming dynasty sculpture - pleaded guilty at the start of the final trial.