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Chinese antiquities worth £10 million stolen from Cambridge University’s Fitzwilliam Museum – UPDATED: Thieves captured but art still missing

April 21, 2012

A hoard of rare Chinese artefacts has been stolen from Cambridge University


The Telegraph reports on Friday, April 13, “Eighteen items including a 14th century Ming jade cup were stolen during a raid at,” Cambridge University’s Fitzwilliam Museum:

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.

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University, United Kingdom.

Update – The BBC reports four people, including a 15-year old boy, have pled guilty to the theft, though the artifacts have not been recovered.

Cambridge News reports, “Detectives believe as many as four art thieves raided the Fitzwilliam Museum plundering £10 million of Chinese treasures.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Karen Daber, who is overseeing the investigation, said: “We know these people acted quickly and were into the museum and out within a matter of minutes.

“However, I am still confident people who were in the area between 6pm and 8pm may have seen something significant that could help our inquiries.

“This remains the force’s number one priority and we will be working throughout the weekend and beyond in our efforts to trace those responsible and recover these works of art.

“We are following up a number of inquiries and continue to examine CCTV footage and work closely with the Fitzwilliam Museum.”

In a subsequent item, Cambridge News reported, “A team of 25 officers and staff are working on the investigation, called Operation Tundra, to trace the 18 items, mostly jade, stolen in the burglary and to track down those responsible.”

The works are part of the museum’s permanent collection. BBC News has additional coverage.


The BBC reports that while the thieves in this case have been captured and convicted, efforts to find the stolen items are at best frustrating:

The mystery of who stole 18 “valuable and culturally significant” pieces of Chinese art from a Cambridgeshire museum has been solved – but detectives appear no nearer to finding the rare artefacts.

Police said new lines of inquiry were being followed but admitted it was “scaling back” the operation following the conviction of four people for the theft.


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